"As the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom nears, the fabulists are at it again trying to weave their own version of the war. The latest myth is that the `surge' is working."
So begins the lead essay in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section by Andrew J. Bacevich called "Surge to Nowhere." Given my own misgivings about the so-called surge--(discussed most recently here) whereby American-won security is supposed to trigger an Iraqi nationwide round of Kumbayah (or, as policy papers put it, "reconciliation")--I paid close attention.
Bacevich discusses what I agree are clanging expressions of triumphalism from surge proponents. From President Bush, to many at AEI, to surge candidate John McCain, the "fabulists" believe the "surge" itself is the key to "winning" in Iraq. This strikes Bacevich, as it does me, as nonsense. But he doesn't seem to share my abiding perplexity over the question of what do we win? Another oil-rich, Muslim, Shiite, sharia-supreme, Iranian influenced, Hezbollah-supporting, Israel-boycotting Middle Eastern country? No thanks.
Rather, Bacevich focuses on the surgists' motives: They "would have us believe," he writes, "that recent events vindicate ... preventive war as a key instrument of U.S. policy." As a believer in "preventive war" when necessary, I wouldn't say the conduct of war in Iraq fits the description any more--unless "preventive occupation" along with "preventive nation-building" are now part of the package. Again, no thanks.
Bacevich continues: "By shifting the conversation to tactics, they seek to divert attention away from flagrant failure of basic strategy." Why? Bacevich believes surge proponents wish to prolong the war because they can't face what he considers to be the war's terrible futility. "They are unable to see," he writes, "that, surge or no surge, the Iraq war remains an egregious strategic blunder that persistence will only compound."
I don't believe Iraq was a strategic blunder in 2003, or must remain one in perpetuity--unless, that is, we fail to learn its lessons. But so far, learning its lessons is precisely what we have failed to do. Bacevich believes the surgists focus on tactics to divert attention from strategy failures: I believe they don't know the difference; or, rather, that they believe the tactic IS the strategy. Namely: we (US) surge till they (Iraqis) merge. Which is worse than absurd given the loss of blood and treasure involved.
What all of our policy-makers completely overlook, from the White House to the Pentagon, from the Congress to the campaign bus, is the Islamic context of our war effort. This is something our Cult of World Sameness fails to allow us to appreciate. The reality is, despite the best myths of the fabulists, we cannot make a Free World ally out of a sharia state.