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Understanding General Petraeus's Strategy

Testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

10:00 AM, Jun 27, 2007 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN
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Great commanders in history have understood two critical truths: the situation in war is constantly changing, and decisions must take that change into account--and, therefore, that it is best to delay decisions until the last possible moment to ensure that they are made on the basis of the most recent and accurate understanding of the situation, rather than on preconceptions formed in different circumstances. The situation in Iraq is very different today from what it was in January 2007, to say nothing of November 2006. It will be very different in September, and still more different in December of this year. It would be a great error to attempt to decide now upon the strategy to pursue when the current plan has actually been implemented, because we cannot now predict what the situation will be then with any confidence or accuracy. And it would be a very grave error indeed to rush now to abandon the first strategy that offers some real prospect for success in favor of a return to an approach that has already failed repeatedly.

--Frederick W. Kagan