USA Today asks “Why can’t Obama admit the obvious? The surge worked” and I, raising my hand and grunting in the style of Arnold Horshack, insist on being called on to answer.

Has “the surge” worked? Well, U. S. and Iraqi military casualties are way down from a year ago, Iraqi civilian casualties are way down, and the Iraqi parliament is making some progress on the political issues that the Iraqis need to resolve (which is more than you can say for our own Congress).

I don’t believe that those results, which nearly anybody would agree are good things, are solely the consequences of “the surge”. I think “the surge” was only one of several factors that brought casualties down and created a space in which a new Iraqi polity could begin to take shape and may have not been the most important factor. I just don’t know.

Let’s take a conservative stance and assume that “the surge” accounted for only 10% of the results. That means that as a consequence of the surge several thousand ordinary Iraqis are alive who would otherwise have died and I can’t see that as anything but a good thing.

The point that I’m making at altogether too great a length is that “the surge” could be a failure in the sense that it’s not 100% responsible for the progress that has been made in Iraq over the last year and still be a Good Thing.

And that brings us around to Sen. Obama again. He and his fellow Democrats who opposed “the surge” might have been right but they’re wrong, too in allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good and IMO that cuts right to the heart of Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign.

Sen. Obama is not running on his experience because, honestly, he doesn’t have any relevant experience. He’s running on his judgement and on his person—his looks, his background, his life story. If his judgement is flawed (and I think it is), he’s running solely on his person and only time will tell if that’s enough to propel him into the White House even in a year in which the Democrats have the wind at their backs.

7 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Causation is always a problem where life gets messy. Cordesman wrote in his Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq:

    “The increase in forces (5 Brigades ~ 20,000 U.S. troops plus 30,000 additional Iraqi troops in Baghdad) did enable the MNF-I to make some gains against AQI and sectarian violence. So did US military planning that developed and implemented a counterinsurgency doctrine, and a strategy based on that doctrine, that emphasized the primacy of population security and the political line of operations. These measures did help to enable the Sunni tribal “awakening” and its spread. This would not have been possible without the tribes’ new hope of success that resulted from the arrival of additional forces. More importantly, it would not have been possible without the change in employment of US forces to deploy and remain in neighborhoods and rural areas versus the previous strategy of operating only from large bases.”


    And given Cordesman’s negativity about the surge in this and other reports, this analysis IMO has substantial weight. Just the intent to stay engaged and not withdraw created dynamics that Obama and the Democrats never valued.

  • As a rule I like what Cordesman has to say.

    In that quote Dr. Cordesman mentions two of the aspects of “the surge”: the increase in troops and the emphasis on security for the civilian population (basic COIN doctrine). There’s another factor I’m working up a short post on, increased operational tempo by the Air Force and Navy, that I think has been important, too.

  • Yep, reality is more complicated than political soundbites.

    The surge was a critical part of bringing about the results. It’s pretty darn certain that the results would not have occured without the surge. It was not the only element, but most or all of the elements were inter-dependent, and most or all were required to achieve success.

    IOW, the surge didn’t do it by itself, but without the surge it would not have happened.

    Sen. Obama is not running on his experience because, honestly, he doesn’t have any relevant experience.

    Yep again. Been pointing that out for the last couple of years. It gets me called names.

  • Larry Link

    Lack of relevant experience, experience like what we seen coming from the
    current administration? Considering where Obama is today when compared to where he was a few years ago…he’s got something going for him. What’s that story from the bible, the one where David slings the rock and kills Goliath..experience is a wonderful thing to have, but is one kind of experience best for all circumstances. As in life, we are always gaining new experiences because life really does not repeat itself. Would the experience that George Washington had be as effective if he were running for office today?

  • Andy Link

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