No doubt, on this one year anniversary of the escalation, we will be treated to more of the same crap about how “the surge worked” and how “Democrats and other anti-war people are living in denial of reality”. And as usual, it is the war cheerleaders who are living in denial of reality when it comes to any measure of success.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to exactly one year ago and take Bush’s exact words from his speech announcing the escalation:
The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.
So one goal (or the main military goal) was to get the violence in Baghdad down. By the end of April, violence was still raging in Baghdad, despite this escalation. And while violence in Baghdad decreased by October, it was still raging elsewhere. On top of this, the decrease in violence in Baghdad was due to the fact that Sunnis have been “cleared out” or “cleansed” from most Baghdad neighborhoods.
Even the one measure of reduced sectarian violence in Baghdad is an absolute failure because it comes at the price of the same segregation and sectarian enclaves throughout Baghdad that Bush decried in his speech. But what does that say for the other areas of Iraq?
As noted in Slate, violence is still high in other areas of Iraq, as we see from the daily reports of bombings and attacks elsewhere (emphasis mine):
But where we don't have sufficient troops, as in volatile Diyala province north and east of Baghdad, violence remains high. The large northern city of Kirkuk, a powder keg of Kurdish and Iraqi Arab residents, continues to see significant insurgent activity. Over the past few months, Tal Afar and Mosul have also seen spasms of deadly violence. As a general rule, where Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds live in close proximity and we have too few American troops on the ground, violence persists.
Back to Bush’s speech from last year:
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.
To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.
Of course, the oil law has not been passed, the Iraqi Parliament can barely get a quorum, there has been little to no progress on any of the political goals and there has been absolutely no accountability for not meeting any of the benchmarks previously set out. As for the “Anbar success”? Well, if arming, bribing and paying off former insurgents is a success, then there is a big problem with moving the bar here:
There have been a lot of reports about the fact that the people who the U.S. is working with, the supposed "freedom fighters," the "counter-insurgents" are former insurgents. They were Iraqi al Qaeda before they started working with the Americans. That is troubling because if they were fighting the Americans once, they'll fight Americans again. And more troubling for the future of Iraq is the fact that many of the tribes that the U.S. is working with are war criminals who are directly responsible for ethnic cleansing and who are using American support to prepare for sectarian civil war. The U.S. is funding Sunni militias. They already funded the Shia militias. They're now funding all sides of this sectarian war.
The U.S. is funding sectarian militias fighting in a civil war in order to momentarily decrease attacks on Americans.
As for another reason for the decrease in violence, we have this reminder from Brandon Friedman:
The "Shiite militants" described by the New York Times were, in fact, members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. And, as we all saw this past summer, Muqtada’s fighters were really doing a job on American forces—despite the troop increase which began earlier in the year.
That was on August 7th. And remember, this was during a summer throughout which we were bombarded with news of Iranian/Shia efforts to kill Americans and destabilize the Iraqi government.
Then, barely three weeks after the New York Times article ran, 50 Muslim pilgrims were slaughtered in sectarian fighting in Karbala. In response, Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he had ordered his militia to suspend offensive operations for six months.
Interestingly, those six months are about to run out and it will be interesting to see what al-Sadr says, what his militia does and what the response will be from Sunnis (not to mention the war cheerleaders who have been crediting themselves for all things good while ignoring the obvious).
What is even worse than the disingenuous nature of crying “SUCCESS!!!” based on some largely unrelated measures that actually are more indicative of failure and a precursor to more violence – including a civil war within a civil war and warnings by our own military leaders that any reductions in violence may very well be temporary and reversible – is that this completely ignores the reality of the fact that any measure of success is selfishly short term in that it is sacrificing long term security for short term reductions in violence that may not likely even be related to last year’s escalation.
To crow about the escalation working is flat out false. By any goals, measures, metrics or “results”, it is most certainly NOT a success. By digging even a bit below the surface, the tactics used, including bribery and arming those who recently were killing and attacking our own troops is stunning in its hypocrisy and lack of consideration for medium to long term goals, not to mention the safety of our troops, the Iraqis, the greater Middle East and Americans as a whole.
It is a lie to say that the “surge” worked. It is nearly traitorous to use the tactics that were used to measure the shortest term of “goals” when it comes to a temporary decrease in violence that is based on arming both sides of a civil war – including those who were attacking US troops a few short months earlier.