Over at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff takes note of my three-column series examining the afternath of the "surge" in Iraq.
The series argues that the surge was not, contrary to the conventional wisdom from Right to Obama, a "success" that the US should repeat in Afghanistan namely because US-liberated, -protected, -supported -mentored and hallowed-by-American-blood Iraq is a lemon.
Yes, of course, the additional US troops of the 2007 "surge" (and the additional payola they brought with them) restored temporary security to Iraq, but the surge strategy was supposed to accomplish much, much more than that. Paul appears to have forgotten this. He writes:
I think Diana has misapprehended the purpose of the Iraq surge. Our goal, in those desperate days of 2007, was to avoid a military defeat, inflict a defeat on al-Qaeda in the heart of the Sunni Muslim world, and substantially diminish the amount of violence in the Baghdad and elsewhere. We also hoped in so doing to strengthen the highly imperfect fledgling democracy in Iraq. The surge achieved all of these goals.
Here's a memory jog courtesy the January 2007 Iraq Strategy Review, the one that specifies the deployment of surge troops to Iraq. It defines our goal as being "a unified democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror." (Italics added.)
It's crucial to fix this objective in mind when evaluating the effectiveness of the surge strategy. In other words, the goal posts shouldn't be moved now to credit the strategy with a victory it doesn't rate. The crushingly obvious fact is, no such ally, no such even theoretical ally on paper, exists in post-surge Iraq. Rather, what we see after six-plus years of intensive American involvement, frantic nation-building, untold billions of dollars, thousands of combat deaths and thousands more grievous casualties, is just another Muslim nation-state with the same old allegiance to the OIC and OPEC, with the same old sympathy for Hezbollah and Hamas versus Israel (which Iraq, of course, boycotts enthusastically with the rest of the Arab League), and with newly intimate economic and politico-religious ties to Iran, Oh, and also new and ramped-up investments from China and Russia.
In other words, Uncle Sam didn't make a dent. Do we really want to knock his block against the wall again in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan?
Paul summarizes my three-column argument as resting on "a series of unfavorable economic, social and political outcomes" that "include the awarding of the best oil contracts to governments other than the U.S., the closing of night clubs, the banning of the sale of alcohol, and other encroachments of Shariah (Islamic law)."
Unfortunately, he neglects to mention what these "outcomes" signify -- namely, a divide between US and Iraqi interests that is so wide that, for example, the long-negotiated SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) between the US and Iraq specifically prohibits the US from attacking Iran (or any other country) from Iraq. So much for those permanent bases.
When, as I wrote in Column 1, post-surge Iraq freezes out US companies (not just oil companies) and economically favors America's rivals including China and Russia (not simply, as Paul writes, "governments other than the U.S."), Iraq is denigrating the US and its massive sacrifice for Iraq. Such behavior tells us the US-Iraq relationship is anything but "special." Ditto when this same behavior repeats itself on the world stage (Column 2) when, for example, Iraq supports the OIC against the US at the United Nations in voting against freedom of speech, or when Iraq supports Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel, or when Iraq allows Bank Melli, an Iranian terror-bank outlawed by the US, to operate freely in Baghdad. Part 3 examines post-surge Iraq itself, increasingly a land where sharia and other repressive measures are in force. Evidence of this includes not just the ban on alcohol (also for non-Muslims) and nightclubs that Paul notes, but also the startling return to heavy, Saddam-style media censorship, as well as the ongoing, relentless persecution of Christian minorities that is so intense as to inspire a conference last month in post-surge Baghdad called: "Is There a Future for Christians in Iraq?" Some monument to American sacrifice.
To lament such "outcomes" is not to lament, as Paul writes, the failure of "liberal democracy" to emerge in Iraq. It is to ask Americans to question the wisdom of a hugely costly policy that promises, at best, only more of the same "success" in Afghanistan.
For Paul, however, the policy remains a winner. He writes:
If a surge in Afghanistan deals a serious blow to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and creates conditions in current Taliban strongholds that resemble conditions in Anbar province, most of us will believe we have accomplished something important.
"Serious blow"? I don't believe it is right to send soldiers into battle to deliver a "serious blow." Knock-out punches (and no nation-buiding) or nothing.
But how "serious" was that blow, anyway? The bombs are still going off in Iraq, in Anbar, too, even if we in the US don't pay as much attention as we used to. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and many other franchises of jihad terror have sprouted like mushrooms all over the map, from Yemen to Your Town.
There is indeed a war going on. Problem is, we've sunk our armies into the wrong battlefields.