Iraq & The Dirty Secret of the Surge
The self congratulation over the ongoing success of the Surge strategy â€“ resulting in a welcome plunge in U.S. and Iraqi civilian deaths â€“ has reached bacchanalian proportions with conservative commentators (and some moderate and left-of-center types, as well) high five-ing like so many drunken frat boys dancing around a keg of beer on a college homecoming weekend.
But a Google search using the keywords surge, success and Iraq shows that these revelers are going to have a bummer of a hangover: This is because of the 30 pieces that I read using those keywords, only three noted that the very purpose of the Surge has been fatally undermined, which puts its “success” in an entirely different light. (Incidentally, one of those three pieces was by Yours Truly.)
The Surge was initiated to give various factions breathing room to work out their differences and move toward an Iraq unified enough and stable enough that U.S. troops could leave in substantial numbers.
But that will not be happening because of a tin-horn, reconciliation-averse central government in Baghdad that exists in name only, a U.S. occupation leadership that has been unable to grasp the social, economic and cultural barriers standing in the way of democratizing Iraq in any real sense of that word, and a White House that has come very late to the realization that politics are no substitute for policy.
Not to get all nit-picky, but the military success itself is qualified. This is because of:
* A sharp increase in air strikes that have resulted in fewer U.S. casualties but more collateral Iraqi civilian casualties. In the first nine months of 2007, American planes hit targets more times than in the previous three years combined, and the ill will that the one-time liberators sew each time innocents are blown to smithereens by fire from helicopter gunships is not supposed a part of the counterinsurgency play-book.
* A sharp increase in curfews that limit civilian movement. Haven’t heard any bad stuff out of Falluja lately, have you? Could this be because the one-time hot-spot is under virtual lock-down with a ban on private vehicles?
* A failure to train up the Iraqi army sufficiently and the continuing dismal state of national police forces means that they cannot be relied on to replace U.S. forces and not merely supplement them.
Of all of the lies that President Bush has told regarding his war, the claim that the “success” of the Surge might allow him to begin drawing down the number of troops in Iraq is the most obscene and dishonors the memory of the nearly 4,000 American men and women who have died as well as the thousands more mouldering in hospitals and rehab centers with grave physical and psychological wounds.
This is because present troop levels will be unsustainable after next April because the 15-month tours of duty for the five combat brigades that were sent to Iraq for the Surge will begin to expire and there are no units in the president’s exhausted and depleted Army to replace them.
What will happen when that forced draw-down commences puts the ultimate lie to the frat boys frolicking around the keg: The splintering of Iraq will accelerate as various groups — militias, insurgents and criminal gangs — rush in to fill the resulting void.
What, for example, will happen in Fallujah, a once bustling city that is now surrounded by concertina wire and where unemployment stands at 80 percent?
There are indeed many uncertainties. But while the Bush administration has tried to suspend belief for the past four and a half years it has been unable to suspend the laws of nature. And it is no secret that nature abhors a vacuum.