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August 28, 2007

Surge Report

Read Kevin on the surge. His interim report on the venture's progress is much more informative than anything Petraeus is likely to offer up.

One additional note: The surge is doing nothing -- absolutely, literally nothing -- for political reconciliation. And without that, peace is impossible. Folks forget this, but the strategy of the surge was not merely military -- it wasn't simply to increase security, because that would be a Good Thing. Rather, it sought to increase security in order to give the Iraqi government breathing room to advance reconciliation. That hasn't happened. Not only has it not happened, but the Iraqi government's failure has been so total we're thinking of ditching the Iraqi government. Which wasn't the point of the surge. To talk about this in terms of casualties is to move the goalposts. That the surge has produced no political reconciliation and in fact undermined the closest thing to a centralized authority in Iraq suggests that it's been a complete failure, regardless of the security improvements it did (or, depending on who you believe, did not) deliver.

August 28, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

And without that [political reconciliation, peace is impossible.

I don't see why that's necessarily the case. If the provision of security is sufficient, civil society can grow with or without reconciliation in the central government.

There may well continue to be issues of great contention between the various factions, but if they don't (or can't) use militias to resolve those issues, why is that not an acceptable outcome?

Obviously that's far from ideal, but stasis in the central government with a secure populace sounds like a pretty good option for Iraq right now.


Posted by: TW Andrews | Aug 28, 2007 10:44:10 AM

Ezra:

Folks forget this, but the strategy of the surge was not merely military -- it wasn't simply to increase security, because that would be a Good Thing. Rather, it sought to increase security in order to give the Iraqi government breathing room to advance reconciliation.

I think this misses something important. If you think the source of American discontent with the war is that they're tired of foreign adventuring and want the troops home then, yes, what the surge needs to do is bring about political reconciliation. If, however, you think the electorate has no problem with our soldiers being stationed in Iraq so long as they aren't being slaughtered left and right, then what the surge needs to do is bring down violence and suppress casualties.

In one sense, the fundamental problem with Iraq is that there is simply no agreement about between the various groups about how Iraq is to be governed. From a purely political standpoint, however, the problem with Iraq is that it is unpopular. If you think what's driving that unpopularity is the daily news coverage of IEDs, suicide bombings and militia-killings, then tapping those things down achieves your primary political purpose, which is to decrease public hostility toward the war.

Or, to put this another way, it's entirely possible that the Bush administration is betting that the American public would have a nearly limitless patience for the peaceful occupation of Iraq. After all, if Iraq is peaceful, who cares if it's politically reconciled? And if that's the case, all the talk about the surge's purpose being to bring about political reconciliation is just rhetorical boilerplate.

Posted by: Nate W. | Aug 28, 2007 10:48:29 AM

Folks forget this, but the strategy of the surge was not merely military -- it wasn't simply to increase security, because that would be a Good Thing. Rather, it sought to increase security in order to give the Iraqi government breathing room to advance reconciliation.

The strategy of the surge was to buy time for the Bush administration. Is it really so surprising they've changed rationales after the fact? That's what they do. They're always moving the goalposts.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Aug 28, 2007 12:17:14 PM

To talk about this in terms of casualties is to move the goalposts.

No, there have always been two interconnected goals, one to provide security and the other to get political resolution. Both will be covered in the Petraeus report.

I think many, led by the naive Bush Administration, are unrealistic about how long this kind of thing would normally take.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 28, 2007 3:10:58 PM

TW's got a point, but the only way to make Iraq secure requires a whole lot more manpower than the US has to send there, and it requires us to keep them there for a lot longer than anyone has been saying. Unless Bush decides to bite the bullet and start up the draft, and his successor keeps it up, I don't see much opportunity for Iraqi civil society without political reconciliation.

Posted by: Aaron | Aug 28, 2007 3:12:21 PM

Could we ask China to send, like, 5 million troops, and then we could *really* stabilize the place?

Posted by: El Cid | Aug 28, 2007 3:18:47 PM

That is a very useful summary from Drum, by the way.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 28, 2007 8:36:29 PM

Indeed. Friedman's column today pushes the grand idea that arming the Sunni tribes and warlords will make for a peaceful, unreconciled Iraq. Hooray!

Posted by: The Vega | Aug 29, 2007 4:30:11 PM

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Posted by: judy | Oct 11, 2007 6:53:09 AM

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