Final thoughts on Iraq and the surge
One thing about the surge must be acknowledged: that it quieted things down enough, for the time being, to allow our forces—or at least our fighting forces—to leave. “Things being quiet enough for the time being to allow our forces to leave” is not victory, but it is a success of sorts, especially when we remember the alternative: Iraq as it was in late 2006 and early 2007, with sectarian murders everywhere, with the country on the verge of collapse into chaotic violence, and with fears of a ruinous U.S. withdrawal. So even if, as Diana West points out, the second, political goal of the surge—namely a functioning, pro-Western Iraqi government—was not reached, the fact that the first, security goal of the surge—namely a reduction of violence and increase of personal safety—was reached, was of decisive importance, and should be acknowledged by critics of President Bush.
But remember what this means. It means that all that we were able to do in Iraq was get out. It means that all of the larger goals of U.S. policy for the transformation of Iraq and the Middle East have failed.
Any praise of the surge must be further qualified by the fact that it wasn’t just the surge, it was the “Sunni awakening”—which was wholly unexpected and was not a product of U.S. policy—that led to the decline of al Qaeda and the drop in violence. Without the Sunni awakening, our forces would not have been able to leave Iraq with any semblance of order and dignity as they have done.
So the picture is highly ambiguous. The surge was necessary, if Iraq was not to collapse and the U.S. retreat in humiliation. But the surge alone did not produce the results that allowed for the orderly U.S. withdrawal. Events outside the control of the U.S. made that possible. Which, by the way, was exactly what I predicted at FrontPage Magazine way back in April 2004, and repeated several times thereafter:
Let us hope that I am wrong, and that the insurgency soon collapses and the jihadist forces fade away, allowing the Iraqi people to continue forward to the “broad sunlit uplands” of freedom and self-government. But if that wished-for event comes to pass, it will have happened as much by good fortune as by any conscious plan on the part of the Bush administration.The “good fortune” turned out to be the Sunni awakening. The Bush/neocon policy was a complete disaster, mitigated only by the fact that, in the end, we were able to withdraw our fighting forces from Iraq without instantly delivering the country into the hands of al Qaeda or some other hell. And that withdrawal was made possible in part by the surge, which came only after four years of utterly failed policy which the neocons kept calling a success, and in part by the unexpected good fortune of the Sunni awakening. Without the Sunni awakening, there could have been no peaceful U.S. withdrawal. The neocons’ boast of success in Iraq is a lie. And most of them will go to their graves repeating it.
LA writes: See “The Surge—a Collection.”
The U.S. forces are not out of Iraq. That is all semantics. They classified some forces as combat and removed them. Other forces remain and even though not classified as combat will engage in combat. If they are not there for combat purposes then why are they there? [LA replies: Advisory, training, security, etc.] Soldiers by definition are for combat not for social work. [LA replies: But our soldiers have been doing social work, as you know.] And when the last of the U.S. forces are gone Iraq will return either to dictatorship or chaos. Saddam knew his people and understood that they required a strong leader, and they still do. Civil war will return, chaos will return and dictatorship will return. In the meantime China is using its money and efforts to secure access to oil and we are wasting our time trying to nation build.LA replies:
In my view, the practical question facing the U.S. was never: can we withdraw our forces from Iraq with Iraq remaining peaceful forever?September 2
Ken Hechtman writes:
You wrote:LA replies:
I don’t know if what you’re saying is true, but it if is, then its effect on my thesis would be as follows:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 01, 2010 01:20 PM | Send