The latest worry among progressive bloggers is that the Congress will not have done anything about the situation in Iraq by the time of General Petraeus’s September report, and that a somewhat positive report will then paralyze them. Such a scenario could easily set back actual progress (movement towards withdrawal) by a year or more. The underlying fact is that any positive report will be a crock, consisting of either lies or selective reporting. From what I understand, General Petraeus is a genuinely talented individual and not a political animal in the way that most members of the Bush Administration are. But using Lewis’s semantics for counterfactuals, it is true that if he produced a positive report, then he would be a hack.
In general, this dynamic highlights a real political problem–the fact that our nation’s decision makers are split into two camps. One holds a great many of its decisions hostage to high profile reports put out by various government agencies. The other doesn’t give a damn about those reports and whether or not they are accurate, but is nevertheless largely in control of how those reports turn out. This is a reasonable policy when those reports are from disinterested agencies and on subjects which are largely out of the public eye. In the case at hand, it seems like Iraq is a hot topic, and a few people who know something have already told us it’s going badly.