Issue #63

Last Update April 30, 2009

International What Surge? by Gerry Krownstein July 25, 2008  It must be admitted that conditions in Iraq are improving. Violence has decreased, though it is still at unacceptable levels. The Iraqi army has become more confident and more active. The central government has become more active in shutting down sectarian activity. Ironically, this more confident government has begun to demand a date certain for US withdrawal, and to balk at the proposed agreement for US bases in Iraq. Is all this progress a byproduct of the "surge"? The facts say no.

An interesting table was published in the New York Times in June. It gave the statistics on various measures of Iraq's stability at several points in time. Almost all of these statistics showed improvement over the prior year, and some even showed improvement over Saddam’s last days. The most telling statistic, however, was the number of US and allied troops in Iraq. From the overthrow of Saddam to today, there has be no change in troop levels. Let's say that again: the surge is a myth. The extra US troops have merely replaced British and other allied troops withdrawn from Iraq. Unless our soldiers are phenomenally more competent than British soldiers, we must look elsewhere for the causes of the improved situation.

Contrary to the claims of the Bush administration, the positive results can be assigned to two factors: fatigue, and overreaching by both Sadr's forces and by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The chaos, dislocation and deaths in Iraq are a threat to the survival of any government, even one as disfunction and factionalized as the current one. More importantly, Iraqi tribal leaders , and the populace in general, have recognized that Al Qaeda in Iraq, its allies and imitators, and Muktada Sadr's forces are all killing innocent Moslem civilians, breaching sectarian boundaries, and generally undermining the power and authority of tribal leadership. As a result, indigenous forces have reacted to outrages and put a crimp in the forces of chaos.

The US has made a small contribution to this, through Iraqi troop training, logistics and backup support. We should be clear, however, that we are not winning the war; rather, Iraq has redefined the war on its own terms and is pursuing its own agenda. The clearest indication of this is the often stated desire, by our proteges, the Iraqi government, to have us leave, and by that same government's refusal to accede to the Bush Administration's desire for permanent US bases in Iraq, and to a status of forces treaty that would prevent the Iraq government from exerting any control, oversight or judicial authority over our troops.

General Petreus differs from his predecessors, not in having a winning strategy, but in being smart enough to stay out of the way while while Iraqis determine their own fate. He may believe his "surge " has proven effective, but the numbers show otherwise.

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