Friday, February 15, 2008

A year later the Surge Strategy in Review

13 months after the President announced the so called surge strategy it’s time to review whether or not it’s working.
I wrote a piece about the announcement on 19 Jan 2007 and said the following:
At the end of the day I believe for many reasons that the President has got the right mix and right plan in place to pacify Baghdad, whether or not this will bring about a long enough peace to allow the unity government to actually get to work restoring infrastructure and utilities and providing enough security so their citizens can go out for a meal, to the market or for a walk without getting shot or blow up is questionable but it is absolutely necessary to attempt. To leave the unity government in such a fragile state as is it is now would be tantamount to what the US did to South Vietnam when it left them high and dry. The fallout in Vietnam and Cambodia that followed has obviously been forgotten. Perhaps it’s time to rent “The Killing Fields” again and remember what happens when America abandons its friends.
As the summer began so did the offensive operations that were required to remove the terrorists from Baghdad and then the other major cities as both US and Iraqi forces worked to clear and hold neighborhood after neighborhood. It was slow, and painful but as summer turned into fall you could see that the tipping point had been reached and the US had gained the upper hand while Al Qaeda and the various militia’s were in disarray and on the run looking for other safe havens but unlike other large scale offensive operations the US military had enough forces available to chase them down while also being able to hold cleared areas, which was the real change. In the past Al Qaeda simply allowed the US to follow them and then slipped back to a previously cleared but abandoned area. The other major change was the embedding of US troops within Iraqi units, this provided the necessary support and leadership to these tough troops and they were well integrated into the plan. For the first time the Iraqi Army was winning, beginning to lead and was feeling more like a team mate of the US military instead of a junior member who was often ignored or worse ordered to sit on their hands while the US did the fighting. I can’t imagine watching foreign soldiers conduct operations in my country while I sat around the barracks.
I also wrote about my feeling towards Congress and Hillary Clinton who quickly suggested the surge would fail and that ignoring the Iraq study group’s recommendations would just result in more US military and Iraqi civilian deaths. I wrote:
As a final note on this piece I must point out how disheartened I am with Congress over their criticism of this plan before it’s even gotten started. I’ve listened to opportunistic members of the House and Senate snipe at the President and like me as a writer present their own plans knowing that those plans will never lead to a single death nor face the historians who will have the opportunity to write in hindsight and with clarity of how things turned out. If the President is right they get to claim that the price was too high, if the President is wrong they get to shove it in his face and tell the voters if only the President had followed their plan it all would have worked out.

I truly hope this plan is the one that breaks the back of the insurgency and almost as important gets it off the nightly news so that the main stream media don’t get to drive the politicians into positions that we can’t recover from.
I’m still disheartened by the Congress and especially by the Democratic leadership and Presidential candidates as they continue to ignore the reality on the ground both militarily and recently politically. First they claimed the military part of the surge was not working then as the result became undeniable they then focused on the lack of political results, well now the Iraqi parliament has passed all the laws set out as the political benchmarks that had to be reached to ensure both reconciliation and political stability within Iraq. Now I hear the Democrats saying that just because the Iraqi parliament has passed the laws it doesn’t mean that it will translate into positive results on the ground.
Let’s review their position:
· The Military Surge isn’t working….then it isn’t working quick enough…then it isn’t producing the political results that it was meant to produce
· The Political reconciliation isn’t working…then it took too long…then it’s not going to produce positive results on the ground.
Is there a trend here? Say it won’t work, when it does, deny it until you can’t then say it was too slow, then claim it won’t have any long term results until it does and then say it doesn’t matter we never should have gone there.
It’s sad and disappointing to watch political leaders and potentially the next President of the United States suggest the some 3960 men and woman have died in vain and that if elected they will ignore the realities of Iraq to keep a pledge made solely to achieve a political means.
President Bush was right to order the surge, he was right to ignore the Iraq study group and the naysayers and to stick to his position of allowing the military sufficient time to provide the Iraqi’s with the security necessary to do the political work that will ultimately win this war and stabilize Iraq for the long term. Will there be more ups and downs? Surely but 13 months after ordering the surge strategy be implemented we’ve turned a major corner and are finally heading in the right direction. Congratulations to those who had the fortitude to endeavor to persevere.

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