Monday, April 09, 2007

How's The Iraq Surge Going?

John McCain says great (though he's now acknowledging that it's not going all that great but he believes we can still win the war.) George W. Bush acknowledges the war is "hard work," but he also says he sees signs of progress in the surge. Cheney of course thinks we've already won (insurgents in last throes and all.)

But how's the surge really going?

The New York Times takes a look:

BAGHDAD, April 8 — Nearly two months into the new security push in Baghdad, there has been some success in reducing the number of death squad victims found crumpled in the streets each day.

And while the overall death rates for all of Iraq have not dropped significantly, largely because of devastating suicide bombings, a few parts of the capital have become calmer as some death squads have decided to lie low.

But there is little sign that the Baghdad push is accomplishing its main purpose: to create an island of stability in which Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds can try to figure out how to run the country together. There has been no visible move toward compromise on the main dividing issues, like regional autonomy and more power sharing between Shiites and Sunnis.

For American troops, Baghdad has become a deadlier battleground as they have poured into the capital to confront Sunni and Shiite militias on their home streets. The rate of American deaths in the city over the first seven weeks of the security plan has nearly doubled from the previous period, though it has stayed roughly the same over all, decreasing in other parts of the country as troops have focused on the capital.

The gist of the article is this: American military commanders acknowledge that it will be months before they can tell whether the surge policy is really working. They also acknowledge that the insurgents, the death squads, the militiamen and other purveyors of violence are constantly shifting their tactics and that just because violence decreases for a little while there is no guarantee that a mission has been accomplished.

For example, the Shiite death squad activity and Sunni militia activity all but ceased in Baghdad right after the start of the surge. John McCain, Holy Joe Lieberman, Lindsay Graham, and George Bush all pointed to that as proof positive that the surge was making progress. But here's what the Times says is happening now:

“We used to see sometimes eight bodies a day,” said Sgt. Michael Brosch, of the First Battalion, Fifth Cavalry. “Sometimes they were all beheaded. Then right at the beginning of the security plan, we didn’t see any. Now we’re seeing them again.”

That's emblematic of the problem of Iraq as a whole. Whenever the U.S. military thinks it has a handle on something or has gotten some part of Iraq under control, the problems either pop up somewhere else in Iraq or come back in the original area over a period of time.

So is the surge really working?

Despite the optimistic assessments from McCain, Cheney, Bush et al., nothing has really changed in Iraq. U.S. military casualties are up slightly since the start of the surge, Iraqi casualty rates are as bad as before the surge (if not's hard to get reliable stats), the violence is down in parts of Baghdad but up elsewhere.

The one part of the surge that has been a success, of course, is the ability it gives the preznut and his minions to make it look like they're doing something to win the war. But the additional 40,000 troops they will have added to Iraq over the course of the surge is a drop in the bucket of what is needed to actually change conditions on the ground in Iraq for the better and all the preznut is doing is playing whack a mole with the violence and delaying the inevitable retreat for the next administration.

Which is no doubt the real point of the surge anyway.

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