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Posted by Non | June 2, 2008 10:10 AM

We don't know whether the surge is working, because the point of the surge was to enable us to draw down the troops to a lower level than was present before the surge without any increase in violence.

Since we haven't yet drawn down the troops to a lower level than was present before the surge--many months after we were supposed to have done so--it seems that the surge is not in fact working. Of course, a permanent escalation (as opposed to a temporary surge) in the number of troops is likely to tamp down the violence. Hell, if that is McCain's logic, then we should send over 300,000 more troops, and there wouldn't be any violence at all. Oh wait! That's what General Shinseki said we should have done at the beginning, and Rumsfeld fired him. Never mind.

Posted by kk | June 2, 2008 10:12 AM

it better fucking work: it's cost enough.

Posted by max solomon | June 2, 2008 10:20 AM

Yeah, as kk said, that's really moving the goalposts. If the goal was to have violence levels drop with an increase in troop levels, it seems obvious that there's some theoretical point past which this would occur.

The "success" of the surge seems evidence that we're able to muster enough troops--at least temporarily--to surpass that point. That's good news.

It is not, however, proof of any lasting success.

Posted by Dan | June 2, 2008 10:22 AM

actually, wasn't the point of the surge "to create space" for the iraqi government to get its shit together? how's that going, grandpa?

if the surge has succeeeded, our job there is done, is it not?

Posted by chops | June 2, 2008 10:23 AM

An alternative explanation exists, for both the drop in violence and collapse of Al Qaeda:

Last May, a fax arrived at the London office of the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat from a shadowy figure in the radical Islamist movement who went by many names. Born Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, he was the former leader of the Egyptian terrorist group Al Jihad, and known to those in the underground mainly as Dr. Fadl. Members of Al Jihad became part of the original core of Al Qaeda; among them was Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenant. Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt.

(From the June 2nd New Yorker.)

I'd be far more likely to chalk up the current relative quiet to some sense and moderation from both the Sunni and Shi'ite clerics--rather than any sort of military victory by the US.

The New Yorker article is definitely worth the read.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | June 2, 2008 10:28 AM


I'm only about halfway through the NYer article, but it doesn't sound as though the people associated with Al Jihad are necessarily the same people involved in either any of the stuff al Qaeda might (or might not) be doing in the west or the Iraqi insurgency.

Dr. Fadl in particular appears to be entirely dissociated from the movement, and--at least to the point in the article I've reached (so please correct me if I'm wrong)--it seems most of the similarly-minded people are in Egyptian prisons.

Not that it's not encouraging to see some people at least coming--relatively speaking (because they still presumably support all sorts of repressive ideas as social policy)--to their senses. But it seems to me this doesn't sufficiently explain any apparent success in Iraq.

However, as I said above, I'd be far more likely to believe this is a transient change in violence than any long term solution. Even if the drop in violence lasts after we draw down troop levels--which is possible--it doesn't imply so much that any sort of social stability has been reached as that people simply got tired of violence. That's a good thing, to be sure, but we're still leaving behind a devastated society.

I suppose, as Bush & Co. say, that only in the absence of violence can Iraqi society repair itself, but this is something they might have wanted to consider before going in with "shock and awe."

Posted by Dan | June 2, 2008 10:39 AM

what is he on to? or what r u on about?

violence is reduced by high troop levels?

wow! no shit? really?

so does that mean that violence will not return because all the jihadist were wiped out or because theyre fighting a guerilla war which dictates they hide, remain low and do low level strikes until there is less troops?

according to old man mccain and those who love him, the answer is to keep the troop levels high and keep em there for 200 years.

while youre at it, build a base around the green zone and keep the arabs in line.

it should work wonders.

feit is sounding more and more like friedman everyday.

Posted by SeMe | June 2, 2008 10:47 AM

The global disenchantment with Al Qaeda is coming as other Sunnis, even other extremist Sunnis, are starting to notice that Al Qaeda isn't really focused on killing infidels; they're mostly killing other Sunnis. The action of Al Qaeda in Iraq lately is mostly killing Sunnis (not Shi'ites), who are trying to go about their business, and trying to build a country. Similarly in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Al Qaeda kills almost exclusively Sunnis, not Americans.

Sunnis are extremely aware of this trend, and are not happy. The intellectual radicals aren't either, and they are changing their tune as well. This is a profoundly positive development.

But it doesn't have a lot to do with our troops. We can bunker down, and avoid casualties, but as chops says @5, the goal isn't just to reduce our casualties; it's to assist in the creation of a successful state. The odds are just as long against that ever happening as they ever were; exactly ZERO of the long-term questions about the future of Iraq have answers. Thus the war continues.

As the WWI general said, the war is going swimmingly, and we have every reason to believe it will continue to go well for the rest of eternity.

Posted by Fnarf | June 2, 2008 11:05 AM

So the metric for success here is that Al Queda, which was an insignificant presence in pre-invasion Iraq and only became a presence after the invasion, is becoming a less significant presence there than they were at their peak, largely because they are being supplanted by the local flavors of Islamic extremists. Meanwhile the flowering democracy in Iraq is incapable of enacting the people's popular will, because the thing the Iraqi people apparently want more than anything is the one thing they can't be allowed to have: They want us to leave.

Somebody should ask McCain what happened to all those merchants that he shook hands with on camera during his photo-op in the Baghdad market a year ago when he did his Apache-helicopter-guarded bulletproof vest walk-through to prove how safe it is now. Come on, Senator, let's do a "where are they now?" on those happy, industrious, completely safe folks who greeted you as a liberator.

Posted by flamingbanjo | June 2, 2008 11:08 AM

Yup, there is no doubt the surge is working. For the record, that's good, VERY GOOD. Fewer Iraqis and coalition soldiers are dying. That along with Hayden's (CIA director) assessment of Al-Quaeda is also good news. Especially for McCain. No amount of spin from those opposed to the war from the begininng can change that. The war is off the front page. It's getting more difficult for the Obama campaign to make the Iraq war a big issue.

Posted by lark | June 2, 2008 11:16 AM

as with 5 above, I thought the success of the surge was to be measured by certain legislative and constitutional benchmarks. That is, the surge and resultant lowering of violence were the means toward this desired end(the benchmarks), without which there would be no lasting peace between the three local players.

Have these benchmarks been achieved?

Posted by LMSW | June 2, 2008 11:19 AM

Are you taking about the surge in troop levels or are you taking about the surge in the millions that we are paying out to keep Iraqis from attacking our troops?

Posted by Sad Comment | June 2, 2008 11:26 AM


That along with Hayden's (CIA director) assessment of Al-Quaeda is also good news.
As opposed to Hayden's (the guy who played Anakin) assessment of al Qaeda?

Also, that's a novel spelling of al Qaeda you've got there. Dare I say, it adds greatly to your credibility?

(Oh, and I'm one of those who were opposed to the war from the beginning. I'm inclined to say the absence of WMDs, the absence of ties to "Al-Quaeda," and the 84k+ dead civilians and 4398 dead coalition soldiers kind of, I don't know, make that seem like the right position. Feel free to disagree, of course.)

Posted by Dan | June 2, 2008 11:47 AM

Most of the world, which doesn't have censored media like we in the US put up with, knows that most of this is just Moqtada al Sadr taking a brief break to rearm and reprioritize.

We are not winning in any classic sense of the world.

Only Red Bushies and their 19 percent deadenders think we're "winning" - and they're very very very delusional.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 2, 2008 11:54 AM

I remember way back in 2004 (I think) when all the Iraqis were running around with their ink stained fingers all my Bush-loving friends were trying to rub it my face how great the domocracy in Iraq was going. At the time, I quoted Harvey Keitel's charachter in Pulp Fiction: "Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet."

That was 4 years and probably 1500 dead Americans ago. And we're still giving credit to the assholes that got us INTO this mess in the first place. Is the surge working? Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet.

Posted by Mike in MO | June 2, 2008 1:06 PM

Believing that the surge is working is as naive as believing the propaganda that was used to start the war. Franky I hope the surge fails. Having to leave Iraq like they left Saigon in 75 might teach uncle sam a much needed lesson.

Posted by Heather | June 2, 2008 1:12 PM


By what stretch of the imagination are American lives more valuable than Iraqi lives?

Posted by Neal | June 2, 2008 1:35 PM

Ah Dan,
A misspelled word diminishes my credibility? Hayden who played Anakin? Hayden Christensen the actor? Whoa! Are you kidding? Your pettiness is extraordinary.

Look, I could care less whether you're for or against the war from the start. It's not a badge of honor to be of either opinion. Sounds like you'd skewer Lincoln (the 16th President not the car) for his prosecution of the battle of Gettysburg. All wars (even ones you'd approve of) suck.

I merely mentioned that the facts speak for themselves. Military and civilian casualties are significantly down. And, Gen. Micheal Hayden is the CIA director. The Iraq war is barely a news item.

Posted by lark | June 2, 2008 1:43 PM

The "looking in the eye" part is very Reagan-esque, and very scary.

"Up is down" (twinkle)

Posted by Mahtli69 | June 2, 2008 1:50 PM

The surge is working great, comrades!

Thanks to your surge we've now removed all our troops and the UK and Poland are in the process of removing theirs.

Thanks for holding the bag and bankrupting your nation for a failed war that accomplished nothing!

P.S.: We'll still stick it to you at the Global Warming Talks!

Posted by Will in Australia | June 2, 2008 4:50 PM

If the violence continues, we have to stay!

If the violence goes down, the surge has worked and we have to keep the troops there to keep the violence down!

We're there because we're there because we're there because we're there.

Posted by CP | June 2, 2008 6:07 PM

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