Political Progress and the Surge

There’s been an awful lot of nonsense from the right exaggerating the benefits of the surge. The surge did result in decreased violence, but this benefit was predicted before it began by many who opposed it. The real question is whether the surge has any long term benefits to justify prolonging our stay there. Opponents of the surge would argue that it has not, as the war will be resolved based upon political solutions, not a momentary decrease in violence which required an escalation of US troops.

Supporters of the surge tend to give it credit for any progress in Iraq. Obama has pointed out that fact that progress in Iraq has largely been a consequence of factors independent of the surge. Kevin Drum places this in perspective with a time line which demonstrates the importance of political developments which were independent of the surge. How does he know that these developments were not a consequence of the surge? Because they occurred before the surge began. Kevin posted this time line:

  • February 2006: Muqtada al-Sadr orders an end to execution-style killings by Mahdi Army death squads.
  • August 2006: Sadr announces a broad ceasefire, which he has maintained ever since.
  • September 2006: The Sunni Awakening begins. Tribal leaders, first in Anbar and later in other provinces, start fighting back against al-Qaeda insurgents.
  • March 2007: The surge begins.

He then concludes:

Say what you will about the surge, which does indeed deserve a share of the credit for reducing violence and increasing security in Baghdad. But it pretty obviously wasn’t related to either the Shia militia stand-down or the Sunni Awakening, since both those things began before Petraeus took over in Iraq and before the surge was even a gleam in George Bush’s eye. American troops played a role in the Sadr ceasefire and (especially) the Awakening, but the surge itself didn’t — and without them, the surge would certainly have failed. Obama has it exactly right.

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  1. 1
    Jerry says:

    I’ve come up with a metaphor that might be useful when explaining why the surge wasn’t a great idea to people like Katie Couric.  It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it helps:
    Imagine a family that isn’t making ends meet. Tough, I know, but try. This family has two credit cards. They decide to use one to buy essentials – food, gas to get to work, etc. Let’s call this credit card “Afghanistan”.
    Now the husband decides that he really, really wants a n xBox game system. He lies to his wife, claiming that if he had an xBox he could get a promotion at work due to his greater eye-hand coordination. He buys the xBox system with the second card, which we’ll call “Iraq”.
    Time goes by and the Afghan card starts filling up. They can’t make the minimum payment on either card. What to do? Desperate to keep his xBox, the husband convinces his wife (that would be “we the people”) to pay down the Iraq card. By focusing all of their resources, they manage to avoid the dreaded xBox repo man.
    “Isn’t this a great thing?” exclaims the husband. “I’m not so sure,” says the wife as she opens the Afghanistan card statement. “We might not have enough on this card to buy food for the kids or gas for your car to get to work.”
    “What do you mean – the surge worked!  It worked, I tell you!!  I don’t understand why you can’t see that the surge worked!!!”

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