First, a caveat: my firsthand experience only extends through May of last year…from that point on I’m just an interested observer with some background on the subject. It’s not your job to follow my career, so I just wanted to clear that up.
As bd notes, that success comes with a lot of asterisks. The political goals have plainly not been reached even though the significantly less violent environment that was supposed to permit them to occur has been obtained.
What I curious about is this – how much of the current relative success in Iraq actually belongs to the “surge”?
I’ll put it this way: while it may not have been the primary factor that changed, it was in my opinion an essential one. The surge would have been completely useless without the other factors that you state (there are so many layers its hard to distill), but the current level of success could not have occurred without the surge being a part of our strategy.
Whether you think that success is enough (I don’t) is a separate issue…does that make it any clearer?
I’ve read several articles that say that the main reason behind much lower death rate for the American soldiers and the current relative calm in Iraq are very active backroom deals between various USA special agencies and Sunni rebel sheikhs. Basically USA officials spend huge fortunes on bribing and pushing Sunni rebel leaders to break up with Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters and stop attacking American troops, in exchange for huge piles of money, weapons and various promises regarding the future.
I’d have to see the specific articles you are referring to, but I think it’s very easy mischaracterize the majority of these deals. The money and weapons are a part of the incentive for the Sunni sheiks (and I’m generalizing heavily), but they stopped attacking American troops because of the big picture of the Sunni future.
What that meant was, to the best of my understanding, they saw the end of the American occupation in any significant sense was near. They factored in the net gain from acting as Al Qaeda proxies and getting their cities blown into rubble as the finest in an entire generation of Sunnis was decimated, and they compared continuing on that track to the cost/benefit of cooperating with America. All of that with the end state of having to somehow constructively address the Shiite majority upon our departure. Whether the outcome of that confrontation is war or compromise, the Sunni leaders now are determined to negotiate from the best position of strength they can muster.
It’s very easy to present them as inherently untrustworthy or deceitful because they are open about their self interest as it extends to their turf and tribes. Some are little better than glorified gangsters, to be sure. But they are rational survivors, as a general rule far more secular in mindset than the Shiite leaders, and while arming, training, and organizing them into functioning polities with police forces and involvement in the army is far from a perfect solution, it is the best alternative to continued fruitless combat between them and the US followed by a genocidal Shiite rampage the moment we leave.
Checks and balances as we understand them have no future in Iraq. The only shot at anything approaching peace comes from ensuring the costs of war are obvious and high for all involved. That segues into a discussion of involving the neighbors in the negotiations directly rather than addressing them only as spies and terrorists, but I’ll leave that alone for the moment.
All this is just my guesswork, so I could very well be wrong here. So what do you think guys?
Other than that, I understand your apprehension about McCain. He is (at best) being disingenuous about the state of the occupation by presenting the surge and its results in a manner so obviously designed to pander to his base. So, I guess I mean that while the surge has worked within a certain constrained definition (that falls far short of its stated objectives), it is still the obligation of every decent American to call John McCain on the bullshit lessons he is drawing from that. That’s the kind of man who doesn’t need Iraq’s neighbors for his Iraq exit strategy, for instance, and that kind of man can go fuck himself.
Docvego’s reference to “ethnic cleansing” is a little loaded, but it’s not far from the truth in literal terms. As tragic as it is in a city once as ethnically diverse and tolerant as Baghdad was (setting aside what that actually means in a police state run by a minority, etc), segregation appears to be the only way to avert slaughter for the time being.