Yet another puzzling factor in the Iraq debate are the conservative types and media figures (see the third graf) who think it is so crazy for Obama to talk about Iraq policy before he visits the country. Is his arrival in Baghdad going to lead to some great epiphany? Between news reports, easy access to experts, and intelligence briefings (which I believe he's entitled to as nominee, though I'm not sure if he's getting them yet...) Obama or anyone else should have a solid enough idea of what's going on Iraq to make a broad strategic decisions about the conflict (as a President does) that can still be tactically flexible and respond to advice from policy implementers on the ground.

In fact, like most Congressional junkets, and especially those to dangerous places, he'll likely be whisked around in convoys -- recall McCain's delightful trip to a Baghdad market -- meet local dignitaries, and do some photo-ops. Sure, it'll be great to meet General Petraeus in person, but their conversation won't be any different than the General's congressional testimony, or any other statements he's made. Conservatives seem to believe there is some secret treasure trove of good news that isn't available to the general public (probably because of that liberal media) that becomes apparent once you get there. But, for the umpteenth time, if everything is so chipper, why not leave?

--Tim Fernholz

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