Monday, April 19, 2010

On the Surge

One of the great talking points during the runup to the 2008 U.S. Election was the question of whether or not the Surge worked. The politically convenient point to make, and the one made by so many politicians on both sides of the aisle was that the Surge was, in fact, successful as sectarian violence was down. I remember talking with family members and friends who provided this decline in violence as their proof that President Bush was tactically brilliant in making the determination to implement the Surge.

I went on record at the time President Bush announced the Surge while refusing to accept responsibility for creating a situation where a Surge would be necessary ("Mistakes were made"). I said that I had "hopeful pessimism." The reason I was pessimistic was that I distrusted President Bush's ability to assess the situation and create a situation out of the mess his policies had made where his stated purpose of the surge, namely "to give the Iraqi leaders breathing room to work out a [political] settlement" (quote from latter link).

After the various U.S. Politicians and Talking Heads started racing to embrace the popular story of the day (i.e. the Surge Worked), I was asked whether I agreed. My answer then was that there was no way to know in 2008 whether or not the surge worked, because we didn't know whether there was a stable working government in Iraq, which was the ultimate goal of the Surge. Recently, there is evidence that this goal, and perhaps other Surge goals have not been reached. Violence is increasing as American presence is decreasing, which is not a good thing.

While it might be a fun game to point the blame to President Obama for this, remember that removing our forces from Iraq was one of his stated goals on the campaign trail. Further, according to all the big names, including former Presidential Candidate John McCain, the Surge was successful. Republicans were in a great rush to declare the war in Iraq "won" right around the time Obama took office (as it turns out, a resolution declaring victory in Iraq came about right about 6 weeks after Obama was sworn in). The point of the resolution, of course, was not to celebrate actual victory, but to divorce the invasion from the withdrawal, to be able to pin any subsequent increases in violence or collapses of Iraqi government not on the President responsible for an ill-advised (but legal) invasion creating a tenuous, unstable environment in a country with a history of sectarian discord, but rather on the President who had to follow up one of the most incompetent invasions/occupations in world history.

I said before that I was hopeful that the Surge would work, but I was skeptical. I would say that as of this minute, President Bush's last Great Attempt to secure his legacy merely added to the scale of its failure. This is not a failure of the U.S. forces, nor is it a failure of a nation that wasn't ready for western style democracy. This failure belongs to the President who was absolutely incapable of ever owning responsibility for any of his actions.

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