There’s a funny sound one makes with one’s mouth when somebody says something unbelievable, sort of a verbal double-take that sounds something between “wha?” and “hey!” so it sort of comes out as “whaaayy?” Get ready, because you’re about to make that sound right now. Here it comes, from Peter Beinart’s column in The Washington Post today, “Admit It: The Surge Worked.”
It’s no longer a close call: President Bush was right about the surge. According to Michael O’Hanlon and Jason Campbell of the Brookings Institution, the number of Iraqi war dead was 500 in November of 2008, compared with 3,475 in November of 2006. That same month, 69 Americans died in Iraq; in November 2008, 12 did.
Violence in Anbar province is down more than 90 percent over the past two years, the New York Times reports. Returning to Iraq after long absences, respected journalists Anthony Shadid and Dexter Filkins say they barely recognize the place.
Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not.
Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not. Al-Qaeda alienated the Sunni tribes; Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army decided to stand down; the United States assassinated key insurgent and militia leaders, all of which mattered as much if not more than the increase in U.S. troops. And the decline in violence isn’t necessarily permanent. Iraq watchers warn that communal distrust remains high; if someone strikes a match, civil war could again rage out of control.
Moreover, even if the calm endures, that still doesn’t justify the Bush administration’s initial decision to go to war, which remains one of the great blunders in American foreign policy history. But if Iraq overall represents a massive stain on Bush’s record, his decision to increase America’s troop presence in late 2006 now looks like his finest hour. Given the mood in Washington and the country as a whole, it would have been far easier to do the opposite. Politically, Bush took the path of most resistance. He endured an avalanche of scorn, and now he has been vindicated. He was not only right; he was courageous.
(I just threw up in my mouth a little. “Courageous?”)
If “the surge worked,” then all other factors, including those Beinart cited (and he omitted some others, such as ethnic cleansing, diaspora, and the awakening movement) ought to be irrelevant. “The surge worked” means that without it and it alone, violence would not have abated in Iraq. If you insist on falling upon a Post Hoc argument, you don’t get to add an “except after C.”
And if the situation is as fragile as you indicate, if a match strike could reignite civil war in Iraq, did “the surge work?” Really?
Beinart argues that it would behoove the new leadership in Washington to “admit” that “the surge worked” to avoid falling victim to a similar state of hubris that plagued the outgoing administration. So, we should “admit” that “the surge worked,” although a host of other factors may also have contributed to whatever turnaround has occurred in Iraq, just to make sure that President Obama doesn’t swagger up to a camera and say “Bring ’em on?”
And if Beinart believes the invasion of Iraq to have been “one of the great blunders in American foreign policy history,” how can he argue in defense of escalating the blunder? If we were wrong to go in, how can we have been right to go in more, no matter what the result? How can you square it with the fact that there would have been no insurgency and no need for a surge if we’d cooled our jets in March 2003 instead of invading a sovereign nation unprovoked?
Sorry, slick. We don’t have to admit nothing, except for that thank goodness Barack Obama is about to take the oath of office.