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The Myth of the Surge
February 26, 2008 4:05 PM   Subscribe

The Myth of the Surge: "Hoping to turn enemies into allies, U.S. forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it's already starting to backfire. A report from the front lines of the new Iraq." [Via Devoter.]
posted by homunculus (45 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Defining Victory Downward
posted by homunculus at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read something earlier today, I think it was, yes Matt Yglesias:
What this highlights is the gap in strategic vision between proponents and opponents of the war. To opponents, the deep U.S. military involvement in Iraq has become a problem. The problem needs to be solved. That doesn't mean we need to start sprinting for the exists in a mad dash tomorrow, but it does mean that we need to be taking troops out as rapidly as can be done in a safe and responsible way. On another view, though, an indefinite military presence in Iraq isn't a problem, it's the goal of the policy. Under the circumstances, a policy is "working" not if it contributes to solving the problem, but just if it makes the continued presence of U.S. troops somewhat less costly.
posted by delmoi at 4:09 PM on February 26, 2008


Well, c'mon. It wouldn't be any fair to arm just one side in the civil war.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:17 PM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Splurge is working!

As long as people who were previously killing each other and Americans are paid huge sums of money (i.e. Bush giving money to terrorists) they will not do too much killing, at least for a while.

Also, what does pitchfork have to say about this?
posted by sien at 4:19 PM on February 26, 2008


The myth of the myth of the surge.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:24 PM on February 26, 2008


Pitchfork gave it a 3.4 and said that though their earlier work showed promise The Surge is just more of the same only louder. To be fair, it still beat Travis Morrison's debut.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:25 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


A low-level war, requiring that US troops remain in Iraq, basically forever, appears to have been the intention all along. Peace is the last thing the Bush Administration wants.
I'm always reminded of the Simpsons where Homer tries to steal a can of Buzz Cola from a vending machine and ends up getting his arm stuck inside thething, and has to drag it around for days. Finally, trying to free him, somebody asks: "Homer, are you still holding onto the can?!"
Bush and Cheney sure don't want to to let go of the can, but let's hope the next guy will.
posted by Flashman at 4:27 PM on February 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


Run any turd up a flag pole and watch the press salute. "The Surge is Working!" is already conventional wisdom. So much so that it appears we have won the war retroactively. "The Surge (tm)" appears to be effective back to 2003 if you listen to Fox. "The Surge (tm)" has time traveled.

"The Surge (tm)" AKA a Re-enforcement action — has largely been desperate shuffle of personnel from one whack-a-mole battle to another. You cannot occupy and control a country of 24 million people, most of which who hate your guts, with less than 200,000 combat troops. It's impossible. You can't even do it with 400,000 troops. Unless you start wantonly killing huge masses of people. Even then the people you occupy keep having babies. Babies who grow up hating you.

The only reason "The Surge (tm)" appears to be working is large swaths and whole provinces of Iraq were essentially ethnically cleansed by three years of sectarian violence and we retreated to Baghdad seceding the southern half of the country to Iran.
posted by tkchrist at 4:30 PM on February 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


The only reason "The Surge (tm)" appears to be working is large swaths and whole provinces of Iraq were essentially ethnically cleansed by three years of sectarian violence and we retreated to Baghdad seceding the southern half of the country to Iran.

Moqtada al-Sadr's call for a cease-fire might have something to do with it too.
posted by Poolio at 4:32 PM on February 26, 2008


I mean "ceding" not "seceding."
posted by tkchrist at 4:33 PM on February 26, 2008



Moqtada al-Sadr's call for a cease-fire might have something to do with it too.


Sure. Which isn't related to "The Surge (tm)". Just him being smart.
posted by tkchrist at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2008


Sure. Which isn't related to "The Surge (tm)". Just him being smart.

Well, it's related to "The Surge (tm)" in that the insurgency US troops are fighting has decreased.
posted by Poolio at 4:37 PM on February 26, 2008


From reading The Economist, my impression is the surge is working because we've paid a bunch of people not to fight.
posted by Nelson at 4:46 PM on February 26, 2008


So far this year there have been car bombings and roadside bombs (killed 5 GIs) in Mosul. The provincial police chief was killed by a bomb at the scene of an earlier bombing that killed 38 people and wounded over 130.

That's the same Mosul that has been hailed time after time as a success story.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:49 PM on February 26, 2008


From reading The Economist, my impression is the surge is working because we've paid a bunch of people not to fight.

Which means that strategically, the US would have to keep paying those people, or their motivation to stop fighting goes down considerably.

Had there been a genuine rebuilding process, etc. etc. etc. we'd also be paying people not to fight, but with lasting consequences.
posted by cell divide at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2008


“Hoping to turn enemies into allies, U.S. forces are arming Iraqis who fought with the insurgents. But it's already starting to backfire”

Actually, turning enemies into allies is working perfectly. It’s just the former allies turning into enemies because we’ve allied with their enemies that is the problem. Although that’s ok, that’s what we did before, so we’re fighting the right guys now. Except for, y’know, letting Saddam’s guys go home with their arms in the first place. Oh, and arming the other side, which...uh... seems to be who we’re fighting now...uh....

Look, the point being we’re doing what the generals said should be done. Y’know, years later. And in a half-ass manner.
(Why is it so hard to comprehend strategic momentum? You put your beef in front, then draw it down, solidify your supply, all that stuff. But no, we’re using mobility! cha tcha cha cha cha! *jazz hands* Yeah, thanks Rummy. Anything multiplied by zero is still zero no matter how big the force multiplier.)

I just don’t want to see this thing devolve into a “politicians wouldn’t let us win” b.s. like Vietnam. The Iraq war was unwinnable from first principles because of what it was predicated on and the utter lack of what I like to call ‘goals’.
You ain’t got a finish line - doesn’t much matter how hard you run.

The real myth is ‘five years’ of clashing with Al Qaeda, who couldn’t fit in Iraq edgewise under Hussein, and that we can kill our way into the right position if only we use the right people to kill the right people.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:59 PM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Run any turd up a flag pole and watch the press salute. "The Surge is Working!" is already conventional wisdom. So much so that it appears we have won the war retroactively. "The Surge (tm)" appears to be effective back to 2003 if you listen to Fox. "The Surge (tm)" has time traveled.

Can we stop referring to Fox News as "the Press"? It seems to be a point of confusion for many, but if you look at the standard definitions of "journalism" you will note that Fox meets none of those criteria. This is also true of most corporate media, including the NY Times. While I can't offer any alternatives for a collective label, I think Corporate Whores will do until something more catchy and cynical comes along. The important thing is to note the difference, as viewers need meaningful labels to appreciate and categorize the true diversity of opinion available from "the Press".
posted by doctor_negative at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


When you realize that the whole purpose in Iraq is to destabilize the country and thus create an excuse for permanent occupation, everything the administration has done makes sense. John McCain was being completely honest when he said we'd be in Iraq 100 years from now. That is the plan. Everything else is PR.
posted by mullingitover at 5:09 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Had there been a genuine rebuilding process, etc. etc. etc.

Are you forgetting about all those schools we painted?
posted by Poolio at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2008




I just don’t want to see this thing devolve into a “politicians wouldn’t let us win” b.s. like Vietnam.

Oh, it will: The Coming 'Stab in the Back' Campaign
posted by homunculus at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Under the circumstances, a policy is "working" not if it contributes to solving the problem, but just if it makes the continued presence of U.S. troops somewhat less costly.

A good analysis.

You cannot occupy and control a country of 24 million people, most of which who hate your guts, with less than 200,000 combat troops.

That would be the other big factor. That 24-26 million is likely dropping quickly. And who stays? Surely they must be insurgents!

"They'll give us what we're asking for
'Cause either way we're gonna take it
Our power doesn't run on nothing
We need the land your standing on
So let's go--move it"
posted by mrgrimm at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2008


Are you forgetting about all those schools we painted?

And the $75 million police academy that rained shit and piss?
posted by kirkaracha at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2008


And the $75 million police academy that rained shit and piss?

Yeah but that was just a wacky prank that Mahoney and Hightower cooked up to get Lt. Harris' goat.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought the surge would help?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2008


God, it just seems like a bad dream sometimes, one that you can't get up from no matter how hard you try.

After the first Gulf War, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz allowed the army to enter the city of Dhahran as a gesture of his appreciation, and the whole place got swamped with marines and other military officials. When we were in Jeddah, right after the hostilities had concluded, and Kuwait had been liberated, there was this joy of having accomplished something together. By the time the americans landed in Saudi Arabia though, in the neighbourhoods and shopping areas, buying whatever they could and shipping it back home, the welcome had worn out. On our way to our house from the airport, our taxi driver couldn't help himself from uttering obscenities in Arabic, and it was all my dad could do from letting him spit at their humvee, with a machine gun in the back.
posted by hadjiboy at 6:42 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Peace is the last thing the Bush Administration wants.

I wonder what the second last thing the Bush Administration wants? Probably a unified Korea, or a cure for HIV/Aids.

We Mefites are so lucky, what other social bookmarking sites have commentary straight from the inner sanctums of power?
posted by mattoxic at 7:45 PM on February 26, 2008


what other social bookmarking sites have commentary straight from the inner sanctums of power?

I'm pretty sure dubya is a gooner.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll never forget, I was listening to the Diane Rehm show one time over my lunch break, and this guy called in claiming to be a staffer in the Bush White House. He said it was acknowledged within the administration privately that the surge and all the rest of the last couple of years of Iraq policy were nothing but an attempt to punt the ball to the next Commander in Chief--that the admin knew there was no hope of restoring any meaningful semblance of law and order to the place, but wanted to leave it for the next guy to be stuck holding the bag as the place truly descended into chaos.

The guy seemed on the level, just based on my personal impression, but Diane sensibly cautioned listeners not to take his remarks too much at face value. Still, I think the plan is to arm both sides, let a Dem win, then encourage all parties involved through unofficial channels to get the fireworks started again in a major way--making any future Democratic president look weak and incompetent (sort of in the same way there were, by some accounts, unofficial arrangements with Iran to hold on to the American hostages until after the 1980 election to make Carter look bad).

In other words, I don't think it's an accident of circumstance at all that America is arming all sides.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:12 AM on February 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Of course the surge is working, most criminals bolt when the cops come, doesn't mean they won't be back as soon as the cops head to the local donut shop.
posted by sfts2 at 7:33 AM on February 27, 2008




There's deep irony in all this. The Bush administration, like all recent American administrations, has made it a great point of honor that it doesn't "negotiate with terrorists." And so much of the dwindling support for the war in Iraq has been based, as per the right-wing noise machine, on this idea that there are "terrorists" who the US is fighting in Iraq. Yet the current publicity wave – the lie that "the surge is working" – is based on the fact that the US is paying off insurgents and death squads who it previously labeled as terrorists.

Another bit of oddity is the question delmoi brought up about the goal being long-term occupation in Iraq. Of course, that's a significant part of what's going on. The idea is that the US wanted to establish a permanent base in Iraq by decapitating an unfavorable regime and installing a puppet government, and at the same time establish the precedent that it could change governments with impunity. But it's backfired so dramatically that even the slow burn situation that exists now (with periodic spikes of killing that will eventually tumble over and re-ignite the civil war) is considered, in deranged lunatic fashion, as a sign of major progress. But there has to be a deep frustration in the inability to simply waltz into a country, replace the government, and get on with your day.

Of course, I'm against the US project in Iraq – it's a horror that won't end during the US occupation. But on consideration, what worries me is that there will be follow-up attempts to "do it right from the start" if there's a Democrat or a less hamfisted Republican in office in the coming years. There's a certain "they didn't do it right" line in some critiques of the Iraq war that I think is pointing in this direction, and it is more cause for concern at this point than the soon-to-be-gone Bush regime.
posted by graymouser at 9:30 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, everyone. Calm down and look on the bright side:
The Iraq war has cost the US 50-60 times more than the Bush administration predicted and was a central cause of the sub-prime banking crisis threatening the world economy, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Oh wait, I forgot, there is no bright side.


BRB, going to stock up on canned food.
posted by mullingitover at 2:34 PM on February 28, 2008


almost forgot, link
posted by mullingitover at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2008






















homunculus, great links.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:51 PM on March 26, 2008


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