Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Here’s “the surge is working” logic in a nutshell: Declining U.S. military deaths in Iraq since August, 2007 means the “the surge” is working.

What the “surge is working” crowd seems to (conveniently) ignore is that the surge was designed to provide stability for national reconciliation so that specific political benchmarks could be met. Let me reiterate. the goals are national political reconciliation and meeting political benchmarks.

National reconciliation is not on the horizon. The benchmarks have not been met. Ergo, the surge has failed. And to the extent that we have seen U.S. casualties decline, we need to understand why …

1. The Moqtada al-Sadr ceasefire. The al-Sadr ceasefire began August, 2007. Let's keep in mind that al-Sadr’s father was roughed up pretty good by Saddam’s henchmen. Al-Sadr has much to seek revenge about. Don’t count on a permanent ceasefire.

2. The “Low-Hanging-Fruit-of-Death” Peak: Simply put, early and vicious ethnic cleansing in Baghdad caused Shi'a and Sunni to separate and move out of old neighborhoods by August 2007. The early low hanging fruit of death – as it were – were no longer hanging out in the old neighborhoods waiting to be shot. As a result, American soldiers no longer have to be in the middle of this mess.

3. The Wall(s) of Love: The physical separation of the Sunni-Shia combatants in Baghdad with 12 ft. high walls. Completed just in time for the surge.

4. The Anbar Awakening: In September 2006 – long before President Bush’s “surge” was implemented – a federation of Sunni tribes came together as the Anbar Salvation Council. They opposed the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda. The Sunni dominated council needed-wanted money and security. In return the council volunteered hundreds of tribesmen to serve as police officers and have permitted the construction of police and military outposts.
Let’s be clear here. None of the above - with the possible exception of the Wall of Love - have anything to do with the surge (which, again, has not met its goals).

But here’s another problem with “the surge is working” fairytale. While reduced GI killings in Baghdad has happened, and regular violence against Iraqis has remained relatively flat (but it’s still higher today than in ’03, ’04, and ’05), our surge has not reduced overall violence in Iraq.

One of the reasons we don’t know this is because of the way we have counted sectarian violence and civilian deaths. Check this out. It seems that if you are an Iraqi shot in the front of the head you are simply a victim of violent crime. This is a victory for the surge. To be counted as part of the sectarian violence, and to get Gen. Petraeus’ sectarian-death-stamp-of-approval, you need to be shot in the back of the head. This is not good for the surge.

So, essentially, declining sectarian violence in Iraq is a product of bullet hole location. Nice.

- Mark

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