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November 21, 2007

Overselling the Surge

Read Matt Duss on "the Surge." Glad as we all are that Iraq is getting better, not an inch of the improvement, so far as anyone can tell, is related to the surge, or has furthered the cause of national political reconciliation. There's been a drop in violence because Sunni tribes have turned on jihadists, because mixed areas have been ethnically cleansed, because certain factions are tentatively working together, because Sadr has decided to calm his militia's actions, and so forth.

We have surveyed this great bounty, noticed it has nothing to do with national reconciliation, and in fact points the other way, and happily embraced "bottom-up reconciliation," which means arming various tribes and warlords under the hopes that they later, voluntarily subsume their authority to a central government they loathe. The likelier outcome, of course, is that they do quite the opposite, and Iraq devolves into a warlord state. And that, too, will not be the fault of the Surge, because the Surge isn't the issue here, it's just the name of the military strategy the administration is using to try and take credit for changes in Iraq.

But these aren't changes that we wanted. Indeed, they're changes point away from the direction we've always claimed to favor, and are exposing the failure of our political strategy -- national political reconciliation -- which the Surge was supposed to abet. So judged on its original aims, the surge has been a tremendous disappointment, as we're moving farther from reconciliation by the day, and have in fact adopted an approach tailor made to impede a strong, centralized government. We've traded consolidation in Iraq for a bit of good news now. That may have been the right move. In any case, I don't think it's our choice. But pretending this is a strategy of some sort is ludicrous. It's strategic drift.

November 21, 2007 | Permalink


We've traded consolidation in Iraq for a bit of good news now.

If all you're trying to do is hang onto the White House and limit losses in Congress, that's good enough.

Iraq -- as always, not so much a war as the world's most expensive campaign commercial.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Nov 21, 2007 12:41:41 PM

Sounds like it's time to declare victory and come home.

Posted by: American Citizen | Nov 21, 2007 4:01:19 PM

Unless the whole and original point was the fragmentation
of what was never better than hodge-podge..
Left over from the British Empire...

Or simple 'divide and conquer'.. another old brit-trick.

That said...maybe Biden is right to go tri-federal.
[I wish you'd let us underline.]

Posted by: has_te | Nov 21, 2007 5:44:16 PM

The core, central confusion is the idea that national reconciliation and the dominant centralized state, itself dominated by a strong executive (which George Bush aspired to in the United States) are compatible in Iraq. They are not.

Reconciliation is only possible where the central government maintains a balance of power between provincial governments.

Indeed, the chief flaw in idea of many regarding decentralization is that they shift their ideas of an overly centralized government down one notch and think of three centralized sectarian regions ... but clearly, a far more stable balance of power is likely from ten to twenty provinces than from three sectarian regions.

Posted by: BruceMcF | Nov 21, 2007 6:56:10 PM

Who is Travis Patriquin?

Posted by: DCPI | Nov 21, 2007 7:53:19 PM

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