The Surge "Worked"

I have to confess to intellectual dishonesty by omission regarding the "surge" in Iraq. I have never spent much time stating my view that the surge, despite the date showing a drop in violence, is futile (after we leave, Iraq will, imo, plunge into civil war.) The reason why is because, for forwarding the policy I favor, withdrawal from Iraq, the surge has certainly worked. We will withdraw from Iraq in no small measure because they surge is perceived as having "worked." Matt Yglesis, pointing to this news report of the murder of 30 pilgirms by a suicide bomber in Iraq, correctly notes:

I have no doubt that had we instead pursued a policy of strategic redeployment starting in January 2007 and the exact same situation had played out, that the facts on the ground would be cited as evidence that the doves were wrong to leave behind an Iraq torn by violence, riven by factionalism, and governed by Iran-linked parties.

Precisely. That is why the "surge" "worked" for those of us who favor withdrawal from Iraq.

Speaking for me only

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    Declare victory and go home (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by ruffian on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:26:37 AM EST
    If saying the surge worked achieves that objective, I'm all for doing so. But it seems to be just as likely to be used as rationale to stay and "surge" forever.

    Zactly (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:47:59 AM EST
    The surge worked fine. (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:15:27 AM EST
    It accomplished the goal of greatly reducing violence in Iraq and restoring a good measure of civil life.  By all accounts the difference in, for instance, Baghdad is night and day.

    The surge did not and never could change the idiocy of the original endeavor.  That was hopeless from the start.  I don't think it's fair to the institution of the military to discredit their actions in this instance with the political stupidity (yes, assisted by the military) of the original invasion.

    It's become a matter of principle on the left to believe that the surge could not possibly succeed and therefore, despite all evidence to the contrary, it must have failed.  Even BTD, who seems to recognize that it largely succeeded on its own merits feels the need to condemn it for not accomplishing the impossible.

    I agree that things will probably get worse after the US leaves and that the surge has not created the Jeffersonian democracy that the nitwits at the Project for Magical Thinking envisioned.  But that's on them.  Not the surge.  Or Petraeus.

    In your view, should the U.S. (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:22:39 AM EST
    move the surge to Afghanistan?

    No idea. (none / 0) (#28)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:14:13 AM EST
    I didn't particularly have an opinion about the surge in advance, either.  As in Iraq our policies in Afghanistan do not appear to be working very well.  Therefore, I'd be in favor of a change in policy, strategy, and tactics.  I doubt that the same formula will work in Afghanistan that worked in Iraq but from what I can tell Petraeus developed his Iraq plans based not on preconceived notions but rather in response to the real conditions and I don't see why he can't do the same thing in Afghanistan.

    Yea (none / 0) (#12)
    by CST on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:43:42 AM EST
    I am in the rare camp of "opposed the war from the start and supported the surge".  I thought once we invaded we had a moral obligation to see it through.  I have no idea if the surge "worked" or not, I am not a general, have never been to Iraq, and don't understand the political currents.  But I really did not feel comfortable taking out their government and then saying "oops, sorry".  So I was willing to give the surge a shot since nothing else seemed to be working, and at least Gates seemed somewhat competent after Rummy.  By all news accounts, violence is down, and Al Queda in Iraq has been losing the "hearts and minds" war.  Once the government of Iraq told us to leave, that's when I thought it was time to go.  But before the surge, the government was not saying that.

    Oculus - I have no idea what will work in afghanistan.  I vaguely recall reading that the generals in charge did not think a surge would work.


    Our insisting the surge didn't work is like (none / 0) (#23)
    by jerry on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:57:31 AM EST
    Republicans insisting the stimulus package should only include tax cuts.

    They had their chance to prove that, they seemingly failed, now it's time for them to admit they were wrong.

    (I'm not entirely thrilled with your argument that we owed them something, because it seemed entirely likely at the time, that additional American involvement could make things worse, not better, in which case the best choice for America and Iraq was for us to leave.)


    I did not particularly support the surge. . . (none / 0) (#27)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:10:54 AM EST
    not knowing enough about the situation in Iraq or armed conflict, or counter insurgency to have an informed opinion (although obviously the previous policies were not working).  My opinion is based only on the outcomes observed -- which appears to me to be a very substantial improvement, and more or less along the lines of what was advertised at the start of the surge.

    Not saying you did (none / 0) (#30)
    by CST on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:17:19 AM EST
    I wasn't particularly sure or vocal about it myself.

    I was certainly uncomfortable with the Dem position at the time of get out now while everything is in the dumps, and the surge was an alternative I was willing to consider.

    So let me re-phrase "support" as "didn't oppose" which as a Dem, kinda felt like "support" at the time...


    Mighty big if... (none / 0) (#13)
    by jerry on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:45:49 AM EST
    Larry, I agree with you completely.

    When Yglesias says "I have no doubt that had we instead pursued a policy of strategic redeployment starting in January 2007 and the exact same situation had played out," I think he's assuming a mighty big if right there, that his strategic redeployment would have been anywhere as successful as Petraeus' surge.

    People can argue that it was the Awakening Councils that started it all, and they can argue that we paid for people to work and not to fight (economic stimulus package or bribes), and they can predict about future events (Sadr, who is in Iran, studying will come back and reform his army), but

    They did have a vote with over 50% participation (not as good as they wanted.)

    Iraqis on the ground, both Shiite and Sunni are remarking on how much the violence has gone down, AND discussing politics with reporters.

    Reporters on the ground are talking about being able to walk around in Baghdad.

    I think Petraeus is to be commended.  I think the surge has worked, and I see no reason to think that Young Matt Yglesias, Harvard Philosopher and amateur political scientists, having taken a single semester of military theory (IIRC) has much of value to offer in terms of his claims that a strategic redeployment would have been as successful, or that Petraeus just got lucky.

    This is not to say that Greenwald is wrong, for he is right.  Success of the surge does not justify Iraq in any way whatsoever.

    But it might be smart for progressive dems to honestly reevaluate their own arguments at the time of the surge and even now and to stop insisting the surge didn't work or at least come up with some real evidence that Sadr's army, described as broken, will reform and some real evidence that the political decisions to made will never be made.


    The claim was it would achieve the impossible (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:46:29 AM EST
    On your terms, it was not worth doing.

    I don't know who claimed that. (none / 0) (#25)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:07:37 AM EST
    Certainly before, during, and after the surge the only claim I heard coming from the military is that the surge would restore sufficient peace to the country to allow the opportunity for a political solution.

    On those terms, I think the surge was clearly successful.  The opportunity exists.  I'd go further and say that it seems there actually has been some political improvement.  Witness the recent elections.  I even hold out a little hope that the situation when we eventually withdraw will be better than it would have if we'd left during a period when a hundred headless bodies were turning up every day.  Very little hope, it's true, but more than none.

    As to whether it was worth doing given that I don't think the improvement will necessarily survive our departure is a different question, which I didn't address in my original comment.  Even asking the question indicates, I think, that you're admitting the surge worked instead of saying it "worked".  My answer?  Given that we weren't simply going to pull out under Bush, yes, I think it's much, much better that Rumsfield got turfed out and Petraues was able to effect the change in strategy and tactics that he did.  Even if there's not lasting improvement the net savings in lives of Iraqis and Americans over the last eighteen months has been meaningful.


    Republican and Democratic (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:09:40 AM EST
    supporters of the Surge.

    An idle comment (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by cal1942 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:15:26 AM EST
    (after we leave, Iraq will, imo, plunge into civil war.)

    Agree. And it doesn't matter how long we stay. If we leave in one month there will be a civil war.  If we leave after 10 years there will be a civil war.

    And whenever we leave there will be a faction that will claim that we would have succeeded had we stayed, that it was just about to turn around until the military was 'stabbed in the back.'


    Within six months after we leave most people in this country won't give a crap what happens in Iraq.

    the surge was a very expensive (none / 0) (#1)
    by sancho on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:23:44 AM EST
    and deadly attempt to claim victory on terms where it did not exist. thank goodness its built-in broder appeal didnt get mccain elected.

    Greenwald on the Surge (none / 0) (#2)
    by Demi Moaned on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:42:42 AM EST
    I completely see your point, and will bear it in mind. At the same time I'm disgusted at how "The Surge Worked" is treated as indisputable CW in political discussion. I also agree with Greenwald's vivid characterization of this talking point from November, '07:
    Acting as though a decrease in violence is now a positive reflection on the invasion itself is irrational in the extreme. It's basically akin to someone sitting on their couch and chewing up food and spitting it all over the floor and the walls and the furniture month after month until it piles up and congeals and grows into mold, turning the room into a repulsive, health-threatening mess. Guests come by and run away in horror at how repugnant it all is.

    Then, one day, the person decides to pick up some of the congealed food from the floor and scrapes a little bit off the walls, making it a bit less filthy. Then he starts calling his friends, announcing: "You must come over. I've completely redecorated my home and it looks beautiful now. You have to see what I've done to it."

    That is pretty much an exact analogy to what is now emerging as Beltway wisdom regarding Iraq. We took a country that was relatively stable and a sworn enemy of, and an important check on, Iran. We turned it into a cesspool of violence, instability, displacement, sectarian strife, Iranian influence, and rule by militia.

    As I said (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:46:01 AM EST
    I have been intellectually dishonest by omission, because I think the policy result will be what I want because of "the surge worked" meme.

    Patience is their game now (none / 0) (#4)
    by BarnBabe on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:50:53 AM EST
    When the surge was being discussed 2 years ago I wrote a comment over at DK that if it were me, I would lay low, have some patience and wait for the US to leave. As long as there were attacks going on, then there was no incentive for us to leave. So, did the surge really work, or did they realize they were fighting a losing battle. Thus, as you say, civil war after we leave. With the few attacks happening now I have been wondering if some factions who know they will be on the losing end of the civil war want to start giving a reason for us to stay.  

    I agree (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:54:31 AM EST
    particularly with regard to Sadr.

    Maybe militaryly it worked (none / 0) (#7)
    by Saul on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:56:09 AM EST
    but from what I hear on NPR and other blogs is that it did not work politically which was the main purpose of the surge.

    Let us not lose sight though of the big picture:

    A surge that should have never happen in a war that should have  never happened

    I agree with you (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:47:45 AM EST
    and am saying something different - it worked for MY purposes because it allows us to leave Iraq without political repercussion.

    In other words, declare victory and get out.


    Doesn't Matter (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:27:34 AM EST
    Whatever you say, it is the Dems fault according to the GOP and their minions in the MSM.  So even if every dem in the world agrees that the surge worked, and we pull out, the dems will get the blame. Heck even if we increase troop level and the unrest still continues, the Dems will be blamed for ruining Iraq.

    Some here are even happy to blame the economy on Obama, starting with even before he was elected (Lehman bros) or at least since Nov 4.. and those are just disgruntled Dems or ex dems. who think Hillary would have solved everything.  Granted as allied that group is with the GOP, at least they don't go as far as the GOPers who claim that the reason the economy is in trouble it that the Dems took control of Congress in '06.

    Jeez (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by cal1942 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:36:54 AM EST
    Some here are even happy to blame the economy on Obama, starting with even before he was elected (Lehman bros) or at least since Nov 4.. and those are just disgruntled Dems or ex dems. who think Hillary would have solved everything.  Granted as allied that group is with the GOP


    I have yet to read any comment on this site (save the occasional right-wing troll)that blames the state of the economy on Obama.

    The criticism of Obama by serious commenters on this site is based on his flawed, less than adequate legislation and his attempts at GOP inclusion.

    Hillary Clinton supporters are certainly not allied with the GOP.  But, certain factions of Obama supporters and naive Obama Unity fools are at the very least enablers of the GOP.


    You Have Not Been Paying Attention (none / 0) (#32)
    by squeaky on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:03:31 PM EST
    Some here have said that Obama has been in charge since November and is to blame for the economy.

    Obama has been the "leader" of a party with majorities in both the House and Senate since he clinched the nomination for President last summer.
    About the economy, Obama exercised his "leadership" chiefly by backing a worthless $700 billion give-away to speculators in the banking industry.

    Now his supporters want to pretend that Obama just fell off a turnip truck that was passing through Washington on January 20.

    Jacob Freeze


    obama clearly... (none / 0) (#33)
    by Salo on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:27:22 PM EST
    ...became the leader of the PARTY in the summer of 2008.  what's your point?

    The point squeaky (none / 0) (#35)
    by cal1942 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 02:10:19 PM EST
    is that Obama could have had some influence on the party's reaction to certain legislation, NOT that Obama controlled policy.

    I repeat, no serious commenter here has hung the economy around Obama's neck.  The responsibility for this disaster is the GOP's.

    And, once again, the only GOP fellow travellers and/or enablers I'm aware of are Obama's blind worshippers. Their support should be for better policy not for Obama.


    Your second paragraph doesn't (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:50:53 AM EST
    logically "flow" from the first.

    Why Is THat (none / 0) (#22)
    by squeaky on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:57:08 AM EST
    The second paragraph shows that even a small number of Dems or whatever they are now are going to blame Obama for everything that has happened because of the last eight years of GOP rule.

    And they are a bit less extreme that the typical GOPer who even blames the Dems for BushCo failed economic policies because the dems took control of congress in '06.

    So I agree with BTD that the best thing to say is the surge worked, claim victory and pull out. Doesn't matter what happens there as far as the GOP goes (and their new anti Obama allies), because Obama is going to be blamed.


    there will be a summer offensive (none / 0) (#34)
    by Salo on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:29:14 PM EST
    in Afghanistan this year.  Obama will start taking the blame for that in the Fall. Rightly so.

    The reverse I think (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:53:44 AM EST
    No matter what, Iraq is the GOP's fault now.

    Well That is Clear (none / 0) (#24)
    by squeaky on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:02:01 AM EST
    And indisputable, unless that is you are a GOPer or one of their gasbag minions. Then it is Obama's fault.

    Unfortunately... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Dadler on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:38:35 AM EST
    ...Afghanistan awaits to become our next quagmire, not that it already isn't.  My brother is being sent for his 4th tour soon, is pissed to hell about it (he is scheduled to leave the military in less than ten months and had just scheduled his weeding, which he now must do on the fly), and already sees how futile it will be.

    There is no silver lining to this.  And, sorry, I just don't think we are ever really "leaving" anywhere.  That would require Obama to be keen on REAL change, rock the boat change -- in other words, the kind he doesn't do.

    Best wishes to your brother and you (none / 0) (#17)
    by jerry on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:50:11 AM EST
    I think it's interesting he's scheduled his weeding, but I am not sure why he thinks it will be futile, or why he just can't have more weedings, which seems to be what so many people who partake of weedings tend to do.

    (Seriously though, best wishes to both of you.)


    His fiancee lives in Hong Kong (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Dadler on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:53:39 AM EST
    Her family is very traditional, planning the wedding was a nightmare, now they have to repeat that nightmare.  Also, it is not standard to deploy people with less than ten months left on their military service.  He is just shocked and, I think, very depressed about it.  Having already been in Afghanistan and having experienced, for one, the utter inability of the Army and Marines to get along and cooperate, he just isn't optimistic at all.  And he used to be, oh how he used to be.

    Thanks for the thoughts.


    And by futile (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Dadler on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:54:31 AM EST
    I was referring to Afghanistan, not the wedding btw.

    Surge Worked" or not is the question. (none / 0) (#36)
    by joze46 on Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 03:30:55 PM EST
    What is difficult about determining whether the "Surge Worked" or not is the question.

    But what or how and who gauged the success. Our Army gauged our success? Our State Department gauged our success? The Department of Defense gauged our success?  Bush and Company gauged our success? The embedded media gauged our success?

    So the definition of success in spreading freedom is to count the amount IED's that are thrown at American solders? Or the definition of success is the measure of insurgents, or better put the totally dissatisfied indigenous Iraqis' that want Americans to leave, other wise that wonderful word called suicide bombers are unleashed upon our solders.

    From my view, after six years now, this next year going into a new American administration, can look with fresh eyes to determine something even simpler than the success of the "Surge". The pre-emption it self is questionable and America is not the first. Do a Google


    1920, British forces battled for over a decade to pacify the country, using airplanes, armored cars, firebombs and mustard gas. Air attacks were used to shock and awe, to teach obedience and to force the collection of taxes.

    Parliamentary elections during British colonial rule. The British hoped that by staging these highly orchestrated elections they could marginalize the forces of secular nationalism. Didn't happen.

    So do Iraqi people really want American style freedom even after around a trillion dollars have been spent along with Bush's honest effort? No, I don't think so; these people are so confused they only know how to embrace the uncertainty of freedom with all the advantages of its corruption. After decades and decades of turmoil in a population where the average age has little clue about its history many now do believe what is left is to leave and see what they will morph into. I say that thinking how America squandered the Iraqi historical treasures with that how could any surge work. For me the final chapter that will work is our "Exodus".

    Or we all will be blamed for the cradle of civilization that does not fit in "our" modern society. Imagine the beginning of man the birth place of religion now modern American man does not click with the birth place. Bush's legacy.