The more things change, the more they stay the same. The last time Gen. Davis Petraeus testified tried to discredit the war effort by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times labeling Petraeus “General Betray Us” that claimed he was lying about the levels of violence in Iraq. Seven months later it is now clear who had a better grasp on reality: From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90%. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70%.

Undaunted by the ongoing success of the surge, anti-war groups have shifted focus from facts on the ground to made up numbers in the future. This time, is trotting out economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has a new book claiming the Iraq war has cost American taxpayers $3 trillion. But Stiglitz readily admits that number is extremely fuzzy — off by as much as $2 trillion. He admitted to Bloomberg News: “We were trying to make Americans understand how expensive this war was so we didn’t want to quibble about a dime here or a dime there.” Also unpublicized by MoveOn, Stiglitz pegs the cost of the war in Afghanistan at $1.95 trillion. Does this mean the war in Afghanistan is also worth losing? The liberal anti-war activists don’t say.

Meanwhile, one of Sen. Barack Obama’s foreign policy campaign advisers has written a paper recommending as many as 80,000 U.S. troops stay in Iraq through 2010. This comes on top of former Obama adivser Samantha Power telling BBC News that Obama would “not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator.” And yet Obama’s website still promises the American people: “Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.”

The American people deserve a real debate about the costs and benefits of the policy options in Iraq. Not wildly speculative cost estimates admittedly off by trillions of dollars or campaign promises that senior advisers know to be wildly unrealistic.

Quick Hits:

  • 48% of voters say the best thing the government can do for the economy is to get out of the way by reducing taxes and regulations.
  • Throughout the Washington suburbs, the recent economic downturn has begun to accomplish without new regulations what the slow growth movement always wanted: slow growth.
  • With scrutiny of pork-barrel spending increasing, Congress has turned to billions of dollars in “soft earmarks” to steer money to their home districts.
  • An ambitious three-year experiment to see whether the Medicare system could prevent expensive hospital visits for people with chronic conditions like congestive heart failure and diabetes has suggested that such an approach may cost more than it saves.
  • To avoid future fights between tree lovers and solar panel users, a California legislator is introducing a bill to ensure that trees planted before solar panels are installed have a right to grow in peace.