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Surge? More like... something that rhymes with surge.
September 10, 2008 2:52 PM   Subscribe

The military surge in Iraq is failing. Sure, violence in the country is down significantly, but that's as much due to the Sunni Awakening, which began significantly before the surge got going in 2007. Unfortunately, everyone, particularly the McCain campaign, seems to have forgotten that the goal of the surge was to provide political stability, and it totally hasn't.

For starters, the Maliki government is threatening the tribes of the Sunni Awakening, which are currently US funded. Even better, the Maliki government is also getting up in the face of the Kurds. Not to mention the militias following Moqtada al-Sadr, who are currently abiding by a cease fire, but who may well not continue should fighting break out between the government and the Sunni or the Kurds.

McCain, while attacking Obama over Obama's opposition to the surge (with Bill O'Reilly's help), doesn't seem to remember that he was none too enthusiastic about it himself, or at least very confused. Even Petraeus, who ought to know better than anyone, is hesitant to agree with the McCain campaign's claims of surge success.

Ultimately, whether the US stays there or not, it looks like we've only seen the beginning of war in Iraq.
posted by Caduceus (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Iraq? Who gives a shit? DID YOU HEAR THAT OBAMA CALLED PALIN A PIG??!?!???!?
posted by you just lost the game at 3:01 PM on September 10, 2008


What? We haven't cranked up the secret killing program to 11?
posted by jaimev at 3:03 PM on September 10, 2008


I suspect that one of the reasons that violence is down, is that the ethnic cleansing that the different sects were performing on one another's neighborhoods is now more or less complete.

So yeah, we've given them that, right? USA! USA!

[sigh]
posted by quin at 3:15 PM on September 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, if what this post says is true, then should we: a) increase our commitment to the Iraqis so we don't violate the Pottery Barn Rule ("You break it, you bought it")? or b) get out, and leave the Iraqs with the mess (as we did with the South Vietnamese long ago)?

I just don't know.
posted by MarshallPoe at 3:17 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've actually supported the Pottery Bar Rule for international fuck ups like Iraq for a long time, despite otherwise being a hardcore liberal/progressive, and until I started doing this research, I was hoping we were past the point where we needed to worry about that. We're clearly not.
posted by Caduceus at 3:20 PM on September 10, 2008


I don't think the US really gives a fuck what happens to the country, so long as their miltary bases are OK, and various contractors are making money. And the whole oil thing.
posted by chunking express at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2008


Barn. Pottery Barn.
posted by Caduceus at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2008


The Rising Cost of the Iraq 'Surge'
posted by homunculus at 3:25 PM on September 10, 2008


Dirge. Splurge, also.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:27 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow I guess I missed this.

The top secret [killing program], he said, will "some day in history ... be described to people's amazement." While he would not reveal the details, Woodward said the terrorists who have been targeted were already aware of the capabilities. "The enemy has a heads up because they've been getting wiped out and a lot of them have been killed," he said. "It's not news to them.

Is it really possible for "the terrorists" (whoever that is) to be aware of some US military technology/program, and yet for it to remain a secret from the public at large?

This confuses me.
posted by rokusan at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2008


Whether it was the surge, the sunni awakening, ethnic cleansing, outrageous bribes, or clandestine operations, or some combination of the above; the situation on the ground has improved in Iraq. Saying the surge is "failing" is just as false as saying the surge is "working". The conditions of the surge failing would be more than just lack of political stability, other hallmarks of a surge failure would have been significant increases in attacks on civilians, iraqi political and military targets, as well as coalition targets. Al Qaeda propaganda touting victory in Iraq, Iran having its way in Iraq, the various militias in full out conflict and so on. The fact that Iraq does not look like Somalia is due to something ... what that something is a subject worthy of debate. But J.C on a pogo stick, contributing the success to the Sunni Awakening?? In a country pre-dominantly Shiite?? The Sunni awakening was just the Sunni insurgents deciding to change from an anti-Coalition to a tolerate-Coalition stance. And I'd expect that there was a lot of effort put in by the Coalition to foster that change of attitude without outright confrontation. But Iraq is more complex than simple equations.
I'm sorry for the rant, but I get upset when Iraq is politicized for a preset viewpoint, rather than for an objective representation (fwiw: my blood boils every time I think of the way this war was started as well).
posted by forforf at 3:48 PM on September 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


FWIW, this is the first time I've heard of the Awakenings, and I suddenly felt a happy rush. It's finally a clear picture that the citizens are starting to improve their situation.

Unfortunately, I read the article and saw that the different Awakenings sects are infighting and turning this potential positive into raw gang warfare.

It will be interesting to see what happens when a personality rises up within those sects and either make a decent positive change or become the middle east version of Kim Jong Il.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:53 PM on September 10, 2008


This Rube Goldberg contraption called the Iraq surge is being held together with 150,000 pieces of baling twine. Cut it loose and see what happens? it won't be pretty.
posted by Xurando at 4:08 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, don't forget the cash payouts to have people get along.

The Bush regime is paying Sunni insurgents $800,000 a day not to attack US forces.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:33 PM on September 10, 2008


Whether it was the surge, the sunni awakening, ethnic cleansing, outrageous bribes, or clandestine operations, or some combination of the above; the situation on the ground has improved in Iraq. Saying the surge is "failing" is just as false as saying the surge is "working".

Shit, I'm sorry, I must have my definitions confused. I was under the impression that when an increase of troops is meant to generate a politically stable and peaceful situation, and instead just puts a temporary cap on violence while political tensions continue to mount and a variety of factions recuperate and gear up for war, that could be considered a failure.

Don't get me wrong, it could all turn out alright in the end, at which point I'll be as happy as anyone to say "hey, the surge worked after all," but all available evidence points to a bunch of people getting ready to kill each other as soon as we're out of the way, or maybe even sooner.

But J.C on a pogo stick, contributing the success to the Sunni Awakening?? In a country pre-dominantly Shiite?? The Sunni awakening was just the Sunni insurgents deciding to change from an anti-Coalition to a tolerate-Coalition stance. And I'd expect that there was a lot of effort put in by the Coalition to foster that change of attitude without outright confrontation.

Crap man, I'm sorry again. I totally didn't realize that when you start paying a bunch of people to stop killing you, and then the violence level goes down, that the reason the violence went down is because our extra troops killed and scared off all the insurgents, and not that we're paying half of them to work with us. But clearly, you know better than what my common sense is telling me, and you also know better than retired three-star general and former NSA director William E. Odom (already linked that article once) who says, "Simon provides a brilliant analysis of Iraq's political realities, past and present, exposing the effects of the U.S. occupation. Sadly, neither the administration nor all but a few outside analysts foresaw them. More recently, most media reporting has wholly ignored the political dynamics of the new "surge" tactic. And peripatetic experts in Washington regularly return from their brief visits to Iraq to assure the public that it is lowering violence but fail to explain why. They presume that progress toward political consolidation has also been occurring, or soon will be. Instead, as Simon explains, political regression has resulted, a "retribalization" of the same nature as that which both the British colonial rulers and the Baathist Party tried to overcome in order to create a modern state in Iraq."

(In case you missed it, the first author of that article, also a professor in foreign affairs, said that "In "The Price of the Surge" (May/June 2008), Steven Simon correctly observes that the Sunni turn against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), known as the Sunni Awakening, has been a key factor in security progress during the period of "the surge." Simon is also on point when he notes that the Awakening, which began before the surge, was not a direct consequence of additional U.S. troops." So that's the Simon that Odom was talking about. Perhaps you should RTFA?)
posted by Caduceus at 4:47 PM on September 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


1. It's never going to get better, whether we stay or leave, because
2. Iraq isn't a country, it's a bunch of lines drawn on a map by the British in 1917 and amended by Americans in 2004, comprising
3. Three major ethno-religious groups and scores of tribes, all with generations and even a millennium of reasons to hate, fear and mistrust each other.

The "surge" isn't about stabilizing Iraq, or "winning" the war occupation, it's about kicking the can down the road to the next US Administration, so that twenty years from now the same chickenhawks, who having avoided service in Vietnam now proclaim "we could have won", will be able to claim the Iraq "war" wasn't lost on Bush's watch.

It's political theater, the cost of admission paid in American lives and American treasure and the decreased solvency, strength, and legitimacy of America on the international stage, all so the PNACers and the pro-war hawks and Bushie don't ever have to admit they screwed up and risk their cushy jobs as experts and their cocktail-party circuit fame and the Medals of Freedom they bestow on one another and their "legacy".

Their sons aren't at risk, and for damn sure their defense contracts and profits aren't, and they'll die in their beds rich and lionized and feted, and their last words will be that if only America had been resolute, if only more boys could have sacrificed themselves on this pyre, if only more bombs had been dropped on more weddings, well damn, they could have realized another 10% dividend on their Halliburton stock, God Bless America!
posted by orthogonality at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


Yeah, forgotten. That's probably it. McCain has forgotten.
posted by DU at 4:53 PM on September 10, 2008


To your point, forforf, this is the kind puppyish enthusiam for finding two poles, grabbing a slobbery hold of one, and shaking off any nuance or long view has made me quit drinking.

I though Obama did an admirable job of trying to explain that it might be a good idea to be thinking about tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, instead of a few nice numbers. O’Reilly did not seem to be swayed.

Caduceus - What's a "peaceful situation"? This week? Through American thanksgiving? Until the cows come home?

Do you see anything that we can use to even discuss that question?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:18 PM on September 10, 2008


Yeah, forgotten. That's probably it. McCain has forgotten.

I was being generous. I prefer to think that he's gone senile rather than think that he's sold out every principle he claimed to have in the 90s.
posted by Caduceus at 5:27 PM on September 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Caduceus - What's a "peaceful situation"? This week? Through American thanksgiving? Until the cows come home?

Do you see anything that we can use to even discuss that question?


Not really, which is why claiming that the surge is a success is so fucking ridiculous.
posted by Caduceus at 5:30 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Iraq's Political Transition After the Surge: Five Enduring Tensions and Ten Key Challenges by Marc Lynch, Brian Katulis and Peter Juul. Download the PDF of the full report here.
posted by NoMich at 5:34 PM on September 10, 2008


re: "Pottery Barn Rule"...

I can't find it at the moment, but someone made a good rebuttal of this glib principle a while back in a comment. To paraphrase: if someone forces their way into your house, kills your family, smashes all your furniture and sets half of it on fire, the last thing you want is for them to stay and try to fix the situation. Especially if they try to fix it by walking around shooting things repeatedly.
posted by Drexen at 7:26 PM on September 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Huh. After watching Woodward on 60 Minutes Sunday night I thought everyone agreed that we'd won. What is this pessimistic liberal obfuscation shit??? Hello!! Secret undercover Operation Bad Guys B Gone killed all of the terrorists (except Osama Bin Laden). Don't even look at the secret undercover operation. You're not allowed to. But terrorists check in and they don't check out. As long as they are brown terrorists though. Come on...everyone knows that the surge has killed all of Al Qaeda and now it's safe to open a Gap in Baghdad. Afghanistan, not so much..but there are no terrorists there anymore because they all went to Iraq.
posted by spicynuts at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Rokusan:

To derail a bit, I think you asked a great question:

Is it really possible for "the terrorists" (whoever that is) to be aware of some US military technology/program, and yet for it to remain a secret from the public at large? This confuses me.

Yes, I think it is.

I'm relatively certain that the US press has made allusions to assassinations that were derived from cell phone derived positioning [random example], I think the potential targets were made aware of this threat long before the general public was [their lives depended on it].

The public at large was largely ignorant of widespread illegal surveillance, but I would imagine that various targets of this surveillance were certain that this was going on for some time. The general 'security' community was certainly aware of things like Echelon, and the 'public at large' is still not.

Such examples could continue, but what I find interesting is that Woodward is keeping this 'new thing' from everyone. I assume he doesn't have security clearance, and muckraking/exposing the truth is presumably his job.

Is it the job of the US press to keep secret our assassination programs secret that the targets of such programs already know about?

I imagine if Woodward knows, eventually this program/technology will become 'public knowledge' as well.

[derailing my derail: I thought it was simple self-preservation that gave to the principle that assassination was an inappropriate way of taking out political leadership that was deemed unacceptable, I would think that one of the least popular presidents could recognize the perils of these policies].

[[last note: 7+ years lurking, and this posed question caused me to pony up 5$, while I am new, I've been here awhile]]
posted by el io at 9:49 PM on September 10, 2008


ei io, I would put it a slightly different way (not that I disagree with anything you've said):

The American public knows what it sees on the news or on the front page and feed boxes of the major web news sources. If this didn't make it in there -- and there are a thousand reasons why it might not -- they wouldn't know.

By contrast, the people in the network being targeted know that their associates are going dark one by one, and they're smart guys, so they can compare notes and put that together with their working knowledge of modern enabling technologies like networks and mobile phones, and come up with a pretty good idea of what's happenign to their networks.

We, OTOH, have no reason to do that.
posted by lodurr at 3:32 AM on September 11, 2008



I imagine if Woodward knows, eventually this program/technology will become 'public knowledge' as well.


I imagine that Woodward knows jack shit and is either complicit in a lie to make the public think we are winning by killing individual bad guys behind the scenes of the larger Iraq conflict or is being unwittingly/gullibly (is that a word?) used as a tool to accomplish the same thing (i.e. - the admin made this up knowing that he was writing a book and tossed him this turd in a way that would make him swallow it hook, line, sinker but also give him a good blurb to sell his new book, which, by the way, is published by Simon and Schuster, which is owned by...you guessed it... CBS).
posted by spicynuts at 6:24 AM on September 11, 2008


I did a post in June with updates on all the things President Bush said the surge would accomplish. (SPOILER: almost all of them haven't happened.)

don't violate the Pottery Barn Rule ("You break it, you bought it")
Pottery Barn's statement that "this is certainly not our policy" was one of my two favorite corporate statements of 2004; the other one was Polaroid's statement that you should not, in fact, "shake it like a Polaroid picture."

posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]




This will probably go unseen, but I wasn't able to follow up on this thread until now and I at least wanted to respond for posterity.
If you use the definition that a politically stable, democratic and functional Iraq is the criteria for success, then of course the surge can not be declared successful. But no one stated that the surge by itself would accomplish that. Petraeus was quite clear on that. So then coming out and lambasting the surge for failing to accomplish those criteria is nothing more than political polemic.
Did the surge reduce the violence? The facts are that as more troops entered the country, violence went down. Now correlation does not mean causation, and I think a very serious case can be made that other factors contributed to the reduction of violence rather than the number of troops on the ground (as stated in the article). But, I also think that a case can be made that the amount of troops was a positive influence to the reduction in violence (at least given their new operational behavior, which was more supportive rather than confrontational). But it is indisputable that the reduction in violence did not result in a corresponding increase in the ability of the Iraqi government (or the coalition) to improve the political situation.
So, I agree that the surge didn't do much to improve the political situation. But where I differ is that I don't agree that the surge was a net negative for the situation in Iraq. Now, an entirely different question would be whether the surge was worth the cost. I don't know the answer to that yet, to me it depends on what happens over the next few years.
posted by forforf at 6:29 PM on September 12, 2008




Lt. Gen. William Odom (mentioned upthread) recently died, btw.

Lt. Gen. William E. Odom: In Memoriam
posted by homunculus at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2008




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