The Surge

There is another reason, seldom discussed these past weeks, on why the security situation in Iraq has “improved.” This reason happens to be the 4.2 million displaced Iraqi citizens:

Not nearly enough attention and resources have been devoted to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region. Iraqis are now one of the largest displaced populations in the world. According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 1.5 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries such as Jordan and Syria and an additional 2.7 million have been internally displaced.

If the surge truly worked, then the refugee’s could come home. But they cannot.

This massive population movement has not decreased significantly despite the influx last year of more than 20,000 additional U.S. combat troops in a deployment known as the surge. The U.S. military says overall violence in Iraq has fallen by 60 percent since then.

What we need is a more critical look* at what actually occurred in Iraq during the surge. Did negotiations with Sadr and the Awakening Movement improve security? What aspects of the surge worked?

*I don’t necessarily agree with all the points stated by this author, however, I do think it is a step in the right direction.

5 thoughts on “The Surge

  1. It wasn’t so much that we threw thousands of extra troops at Iraq. It was that those troops were used in a completely different way. Instead of hiding inside fortified bases, the soldiers and Marines were sent out among the Iraqi populace. They lived with them, they patrolled the streets like beat cops. They showed the civilian Iraqis that they weren’t these monsters that al-Qaeda and the Baathists and the Sadrites made them out to be. They won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people in a way that they couldn’t when they were sitting behind sandbags and machine guns.

    The other key part of the surge was that at about the same time, al-Qaeda overplayed their hand. They went too far. Really, they’re as much or more street gang or criminal enterprise as they are terrorist masterminds, and finally the people in Anbar had enough of the beheadings and the shootings. Hence, the Anbar Awakening, where the tribal chiefs figured out that it was in their best interests to cooperate with the Americans and Iraqi government instead of the murderous AQI fanatics. The two things–the new counter-insurgent strategy, and AQI going too far–worked together. AQI gave the Americans and the Iraqi government and the locals all a common enemy to work against. Without either one, things would not have improved as much as they have in Iraq. Really, to use the gamer term, al-Qaeda in Iraq pwned themselves.

    As for Sadr? I still think we should’ve put a round between his eyes four years ago and it would’ve saved a whole lot of long-term trouble. But I’ll grant that the Iraqi government and US forces have handled him masterfully the past 12-18 months or so. He’s been somewhat marginalized, his Mahdi Army has been reduced, and he’s been co-opted into the political process. I think he’s figured out that right now, he’s best off laying very low and biding his time.

    BTW, people on both sides are now talking about a “surge” in Afghanistan since things are going wrong there? Won’t work. It’s a totally different kind of fight. The only way Afghanistan will ever start to see the kind of security gains they’re seeing in Iraq is if Pakistan gets serious about clearing those frontier provinces…and there’s no indication that they’re going to do so.

  2. I remember the build up to the invasion of Afghanistan. I talked to a lot of Afghanis, attended a lot of rallies and conferences, and basically listened to what was being said.

    The Afghanis biggest fear was that the West would sweep in, start the job and then forget them. That is what the West has consistently done before. And that is what the West did again.

    Iraq was W’s private little war but our focus should have been in Afghanistan. And we shoved them in the background and marginalized them. They were the people that wanted our help and we’ve treated them poorly again.

  3. @lewis:

    “As for Sadr? I still think we should’ve put a round between his eyes four years ago and it would’ve saved a whole lot of long-term trouble”

    The Shiite tradition is full of martyrs. All that would have done was to create brief power vacuum before starting an even worse conflict. They should have handled Sadr by talking to him directly *years* ago.

    More later, as I have to finish this eval.

  4. I still can’t believe how “let’s walk into a country and assassinate people” remains the default problem solving tool for, what it seems to me, so many.

    Of course, this goes from being super serious and respectable when it’s carried out by “your people,” and becomes an unspeakable act of destabilization/terrorism/imperialist bullying when it’s done by anybody else.

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