Blogs > Cliopatria > Is the Surge Working?

Oct 10, 2007 10:50 am

Is the Surge Working?

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Frederick Kagan (Mr. Kagan is one of the primary designers of the Surge. A former West Point historian, he is now affiliated with the American Enterpise Institute.

The situation on the ground actually has improved more rapidly than I or anyone had anticipated when we laid out our proposal in December 2006, because we did not foresee the changes in [the western Al-]Anbar [Governorate] moving as rapidly as they did. And we did not see them spreading as rapidly and completely as they have into Baghdad, Diyala, Salah Al-Din, and Babil [governorates].

And so we've found ourselves in the slightly weird position of doing better than expected from a security standpoint. And now we're playing not just for the aim of securing Baghdad and Anbar but actually for securing all of central Iraq. And it's a much more ambitious goal. But I think that we actually are on track to accomplish it right now.

Juan Cole (Mr. Cole is president of the Middle East Studies Association and professor of history at the University of Michigan.)

Despite what the pundits will say, I fear the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the Hill Monday and Tuesday is not a turning point, does not give Bush breathing room, and is largely irrelevant.

To any extent that what they do in Iraq ends up making a real positive difference, Petraeus and Crocker will likely be doing the Democrats a big favor, not Bush, who won't be in office much longer.

The central question is whether the Democrats can force a significant reduction of troops from Iraq on Bush's watch, so as to avoid Iraq becoming exclusively their headache when they (as is likely) take over the White House in January of 2009. If they could, this drawdown would be the best option. Certainly, that is what a majority of Iraqis thinks, according to the new BBC/ABC poll.

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Mike - 10/8/2007

the surge seems to be working. I've had far fewer explosions from rockets, morters and car bombs near my FOB since the surge started.

I don't get enough time to sit and read all the news because the net is slow and magazines always get here late. But, it's quieter now.

Tim Matthewson - 9/21/2007

No the surge is not working, that is, producing a reconciliation at the national level between the sunnis and shia. The best proof that it is not working comes from US politics. President Bush said the goals of the surge was to produce a reconciliation of the two sides in the civil war. But now that the clock has run out on the surge, the president has decided to move the goal posts -- the surge is a succes because sunnis have turned against the Qaeda in Anbar provance. This goal is a fresh creation, and it came about not as a result of the surge, but as a result of the independent activities of sunni chiefs in Anbar. The surge is not working as evidence by the time that the Republicans have been paying to the ad about Gen. Petgraeus. Now Republicans passes a resolution condemning The point: when you don't have anything good to say about the success of your policies in the war, talk about something else. It doesn't matter what it is.Just change the subject. If the president had good news to report from Iraq, he would focus on that news. But he does not, so it back to partisan politics. Direct your fire against the bad guys -- Democrats, and try to hurt their front runner in the 08 race.

Dalek S. Wu - 9/20/2007

The very fact that the Surge is being discussed en clair in public on CNN (which the bad guys listen to as well), says a lot about the prospects for this situation, and it is not good.

The very fact that the Surge was publicly announced months before it happened is just like the fact that Harold Wilson (one of Britain's worst Prime Ministers) announced in 1976 that the SAS were going to South Armagh before anyone had told the SAS. When politicians give away troop movements, including specifics as to numbers, units and destinations, it is not a good thing.

It seems this generation of politicians are entirely unaware of the WWII adage "loose lips sink ships."

neffer - 9/20/2007

The above comment is by N. Friedman

- 9/20/2007


You write: "Only 9-11-2001, have the Moslem's attacked the US!"

Is that so? Well, NO, it is not so. It is not even close. Perhaps you mean that Muslims have not attacked the US recently - but even that is not so. One can hardly forget the year 1993 and the WTC bombing. You evidently have. And, perhaps you forget the 1998 double embassy bombings - 223 people killed and more than 4000 people injured? One might also remember the bombing of the USS Cole?

Surely, you jest.

One might also forget - and who minds waxing historical on a website devoted to history - that, after the War of Independence, the first real foreign crisis the US had was with Muslims. Perhaps the war in the years 1801 - 1805 might be a hint. Does the word "Tripoli" help you? Then again, there was a further war with Muslims in 1815.

The lead up to these wars is described in considerable detail in Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, by Michael Oren. There was substantial piracy including in US waters. Hostages were taken and money was demanded. In any event, according to an article by Oren which can be found online (and which basically repeats what appears in his later written and above mentioned book):

Congress, though, thought differently, and in the summer of 1786, it instructed Jefferson to join Adams in London for one more try at negotiating with Tripoli's envoy, 'Abd al-Rahman. The pair reiterated America's desire for peace with all of the Barbary states, but 'Abd al-Rahman simply repeated his demand for $1 million and then, in a speech that will sound familiar to most Americans today, he proceeded to shock these founding fathers:

"[I]t was …written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their [the Muslims'] authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could be found, and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise." (From Jefferson's report to Congress).

Here is another hint for you. Does the word "Barbary" help you?

None of this makes the surge a good or a bad idea, a success or a disaster. However, make believe versions of history call your comments into question.

kislock - 9/20/2007

Well said Mr.Morland!

Who give the Marching Orders to the US Congress and Administration, Right, Israel!

Until we can tear loose from the Israeli Lobby, forget it!

kislock - 9/20/2007

1. Where does the United States get 25% or so of the OIL, needed to run this country?

Only 9-11-2001, have the Moslem's attacked the US! The United States has Interfered/Attacked all Muslims Countries for over 50 years, The Justice of Roosting Chickens or Pay Backs a Bitch.

A bumper sticker I see, Say's it all, "War is not working".

The Fear you emanate is all pervasive!

Wes Morland - 9/18/2007

Some of activities the increased troops are conducting fall into the category of "too little, too late." They amount to minor victories on the humiliating road to unending debacle, delusion, and disaster. But, the main purpose of the surge is -of course- to stall and obfuscate until 2009 when it will be officially all the Democrats fault. And, as they continue digging their political graves with their useless hyping, constant backtracking, compulsive waffling and chickenhearted inaction, it is indeed becoming their fault.

Bob Martin - 9/18/2007

Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are three centers of activity for the Muslim effort to conquer the entire world. If the Muslims are not stopped, you will all find yourselves living as dhimmis under the Caliphate. If this doesn't bother you then there's no hope for your future.

kislock - 9/17/2007

lisakaz, here is a url for you,

Walt McElligott - 9/17/2007

After listening to Gen. "Betr-us" & Amb. "Crock of" followed by Kagan, I'm at loss as to the name of the country in which i once lived. When did the United States of America become the U.S. of Bush & friends, & to hell w/ everyone else?

I tried to be civil, you should see what i really wanted to say.

lisakaz - 9/17/2007

You mean like Petraeus's boss who essentially called him a toady for the Bush Administration? How 'bout the fact that this "report" was set up in DC and despite Petraeus's words to the contrary, he was there to perform a ventriloquism act for Bush himself. That's the point. Nothing we heard, except for the admission that Petraeus didn't know if the "surge" really made America any safer, wasn't pre-approved and previewed or stated already by this president.

The "wait for Gen. Petraeus" was all a sham, just like Bush "consulting" anyone after the testimony. He was already practicing a speech before this so-called consulting. Just for appearances.

I've heard people talk about what Bush's professors saw. An arrogant guy who has his mind made up and who often contradicted himself, the guy as Ann Richards said "was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."

This is great reason to cast doubt on the veracity of Petraeus, esp. since he wasn't even sworn in.

lisakaz - 9/17/2007

Bush's own speech claimed the "surge" was buying time for reconciliation. Well, it didn't happen. It didn't even begin. And now, we see the Kurds making their own deal with a Bush friend for the point of Oil revenue. He looked at all his insider info and decided it wasn't going to work -- period. Stop with the nonsense already. This is a fiasco made ever moreso by the fantasies spun for this administration.

lisakaz - 9/17/2007

How come 70% of Iraqis remaining (forget all the dead and fleeing) disagree with you.

lisakaz - 9/17/2007

I had not seen that. Holy Cow. That is unbelievable.

Ronald Dale Karr - 9/17/2007

"If you want a relevant response to this question, ask the commanders on the ground."

I assume by this you mean the junior officers who are actually on the ground, not the top brass back in Florida or inside the Green Zone. One of the many peculiar features of this war (the first in history to be funded by tax cuts!) is the fact that few if any senior officers have died (have any U.S. generals been killed in Iraq?). Once upon a time the commander-in-chief led his troops personally into battle (but in the Anglo world this hasn't happened since George II); now days even the generals avoid the front lines (a number of U.S. colonels and generals died in Vietnam). My point is not that Gen. Petreaus et al. our cowards--far from it!--but in a society that treasures CEOs we can't put them at risk. In such circumstances it's increasingly difficult for senior commanders to know what's really going on. And should they stick their necks out and point out failures, they're all too likely to find their careers have been terminated (ask Gen. Shinkseki).

Ed Sorrels - 9/17/2007

This is just another attempt by this administration to continue the occupation of iraq, Our children are dying at an accelerated rate, The Iraqi's dont want us there. The out come of this misadventure was set the day we fired the first shot, and our presence there won't make a bit of difference. The only way for there to be peace in the country is to partition it along religious lines and sooner rather than later. We are making thing's worse by our continueing presence as it keeps them from working out their own problems, But bush will stay till the oil treaty is worked out or we vote his sorry self out of office as this is why we are thyere in the first place.

- 9/17/2007

Colin Powell and

Cynthia Tharp - 9/17/2007

If you want a relevant response to this question, ask the commanders on the ground. Legislators who are busy scrambling to the podium to call a senior military commander a liar, before they have heard him speak, are a detriment to the efforts of servicemen and women in theater. We are fighting a long-term war, and pulling our military personnel out of the fight will likely result in their return (probably in larger numbers, and definitely with more expense to the US taxpayer) in the near future. Were our troops not deployed to Iraq a decade ago? I, for one, want commanders to stabilize the region before we abandon the fight. As a retired member of the military, it breaks my heart to see our uniformed personnel deployed to combat zones, but the commanders on the ground are only ones capable of determining the status of the operation. Monday morning quarterbacking by bureaucrats with no military experience is a dangerous business and precisely why the constitution does not give them military authority.

I think General Petraeus and his subordinate commanders and troops are all heroes in the ongoing battle against terrorism; I salute their efforts.

Clark Richards - 9/17/2007

I am convinced the surge is working and believe the more support it receives in America the better it will work in Iraq.

American public opinion is morale buster for insurgents and a booster for Iraqis and our troops that seek to instill the safety and security essential for some form of democratic governance.

I have reviewed the life and career of Petraeus in detail (has anyone read his 300 age dissertation?) and believe he possesses the intellect, integrity and fortitude to achieve success. Political support from America would be the equivalent of several brigades of troops in Iraq.

Andrew D. Todd - 9/17/2007

Ah, for some reason, my name did not get put on the post " How Bush Serves Khomeini" (#113459)) even though I used my userID and password in the comment form.

Andrew D. Todd

- 9/17/2007

I've never been quite sure what credence to give to the Riverbend papers (anonymous author, and all), but, assuming she is who she says she is (Iraqi, secularized professional class), Riverbend has now announced that she is a refugee in Syria. More to the point, there is no serious doubt that the two million or so extra-country refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan, are made up overwhelmingly of the business and professional classes, the doctors, the engineers, etc., the kind of people whom other countries were willing to take in. Those are the kind of people who make a modern country work. If you take a city of five million people, like Baghdad, if things like the water supply don't work, after a fashion, the city ceases to be survivable. That would probably produce a wave of thirst-refugees in the opposite direction, into Iran. For that matter, one obvious use the Syrians could put their refugees to is building more water works and generally expanding irrigated agriculture. As a result of the American incursion, Iraq is no longer able to present a credible deterrent to its upstream neighbors (including Kurdistan), who are now free to divert as much water as they can find ways to use. The probable end state is that Mesopotamia will become an uninhabited desert. The first people affected will be the Shia, who are farther down the water queue than anyone else. One way or another, they will get absorbed into Iran. This will add a "coherency to Iran's western frontier, with everyone looking resentfully upstream at Turkey and Syria, and a wide stretch of desert intervening with little or no population. At the same time, there will no longer be a viable nation between Iran and the oilfields. All Bush has accomplished is to insure the advent of the "Iranian Century" in the Middle East. History will no doubt insist that Bush was actually a closet "Khomeini-ist," and planned it all from the first.
Mostly about flooding of archaeological sites, but provides some maps, etc:
A civil engineer's work-up
A master's thesis on the larger political problem, written before the American invasion.

David R. Applebaum - 9/17/2007

Out NOW!

Since the announcement last January of a “new strategy” to bring peace, security and reconciliation to Iraq there have been three surges. The first is the increase in troops and their redeployment. The second is the increase in Iraqi emigration – internal as well as external. In addition, the third is the eight-fold increase in imprisoned child soldiers. The three surges are interconnected. Each contributes to the spiral that can only be resolved by an end to the US occupation of Iraq.

The military surge is fragile. Moreover, as the UK troops redeploy and leave Iraq, the supply lines necessary for actions in Baghdad are increasingly vulnerable. While the administration blames Iranians for fueling the insurgency, it ignores the weapons provided by the United States to opponents of the occupation. In other words, the surge and flow of arms that sustain the violence are self-sustaining. We are our own worst enemies!
The civilian surge in flight from Iraq is the direct result of the inability of the military to create security and peace. The exodus of people who would be the cornerstone of nation building accelerates. In turn, the capacity of civil society to rebuild is increasingly compromised. The claim that the surge is a “bottoms-up” plan at the local level is contradicted by the departures of those who are needed to rebuild Iraq.
The child soldier surge reported by the Department of Defense tells the story of future failure. Iraqi children who are locked up are most likely to develop in an environment that nurtures violence and terror. The larger the group becomes – and it began with 100 when the military surge began and is now over 800 – the greater the likelihood that the forces arrayed against the occupation will grow. The strategy is nurturing terrorism and sustaining the bloodbath of today – not the one that is coming.
There is little doubt that there will be intensified struggle after we leave. The longer we delay, the worse it will be. The best course of action is the end of the occupation.

David R. Applebaum
1215C Waverly Walkway
Philadelphia, PA 19147
267-265 4614

Lorraine Paul - 9/17/2007

Is there anyone on this board aware that Petraeus and Crocker did not write the report attributed to them? According to my sources, it was written in Washington!

kislock - 9/17/2007

"A stable and prospering Iraq", surly you are talking of 20 to 30 years down a very hard road.

"It's all about Oil!", we will all be reading these headlines soon.

2,600,000 Iraqis Fled Iraq.

2,200,00 Iraqis Displaced.

2 to 4 hours of Electricy a Day.

Potable Water, from a Bottle, not the Rivers.

Thousands of Tons of Depleted Uranium Munitions, used and a half live of Millions of Years.

Over a Million Iraqis Killed since the Invasion and Occupation.

Petraeus/Caesar, was Not Sworn In for the Hearings, WHY????

What of Petraeus' presidential Ambitions?

H.S. Decker - 9/17/2007

The Surge is not working!

Manfred Jonas - 9/17/2007

There is no question that the Surge has been something of a military success since it has reduced the sectarian violence in Iraq by a bit, though if it has done more in that respect than Mr. Kagan expected one must wonder why he was and continues to be such a staunch supporter of it. But the Surge has clearly failed in its primary purpose which was to help get a working political settlement that would turn Iraq into a functioning state and allow us to claqim victory and start going home. General Petraeus said as much, though his remarks were nothing if not politically correct.

Sudha Shenoy - 9/16/2007

In case the Iraqis are of any consequence in this: The BBC poll shows overwhelmingly that Iraqis believe (a)the 'surge' is _adding_ to their other problems & (b) the Americans should go -- _now_.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 9/16/2007

It seems likely momentum from the surge and the Sunni Awakening will continue steadily throughout the countdown from now until November'08. This could lead to recapture of the House and retention of the White House by the GOP. In that situation you would have a president Giuliani presiding over another Bosnia-like situation for several more years. On the other hand, if Democrats prevail they are not likely to kick away a stable and prospering Iraq which has cost Americans a good deal.. The probable result is thus another Bosnia-like situation for several years in any case. It can be argued, weakly, that the Democrats could not manage our affairs in Iraq more badly than the Republicans have, but only if you overlook how the new commander and procedures have corrected past mistakes. It would take years for any Democratic president's rapport with the military to approach its good fit with another GOP president, but, offsettingly, a Democrat win would greatly reduce the anti-war propaganda in the mainstream media, thus causing the enemy to lose heart and the Iraqis to gain more confidence more quickly, and foreign investors in Iraq, too. So there is a silver lining either way. As for bringing the troops home, have you heard any clamor about bringing the troops home from Bosnia? Of course not. In the event of a Democrat victory the media petulance on this would melt away immediately, to allow its Democratic friends some breathing room.