In response to my three-column series on the Iraq surge, Paul at Powerline posted here, and when I responded here, he responded again here.
Paul's Post 1 argued I was wrong to object to Iraq not having become a "liberal democracy" -- Paul's phrase -- because the goal of the strategy was basically limited to putting down "al Qaeda."
A tragically blinkered, stop-gap measure, I'm afraid. But the surge strategy promised much more. As the 2007 Iraq Strategy Review notes, the goal was also an Iraq that would be "an ally in the war on terror." This point was enthusiastically promoted on the Right from the beginning in 2003. As recently as this week, just as Iraq released Qais al-Khazali, the Iranian-proxy killer of five US troops, kidnapper and killer of Britons, and great Shiiite political hope in Iraq, John McCain was still burbling about Iraq the model, the beacon for other nations. In December 2008, Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece titled "Iraq, American Ally" in which he called Iraq "our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism."
As my series shows, this "ally" didn't happen. And it won't happen because Iraq is a sharia culture that is shaped by the tenets of "lslamic extremism." So is Afghanistan. Therefore, what didn't work for goose isn't going to work for the gander. Meanwhile, there are other, better ways to defeat Islamic jihad than bogging down our armies in PC efforts to win hearts and minds in the Islamic world. (See discussion here, here, here, and here for example. And don't miss this backgrounder on 30-plus years of sustained US nation-building in Afghanistan that failed.)
Paul's Post 2 mainly responds to an argument I didn't address -- namely whether the Iraq surge of 2007 should have gone forward in the first place.
My series is not an argument over past US strategic decisions. It presents copious evidence of why the results of those strategic decisions achieved nothing that we should want to repeat in Afghanistan -- evidence I am sorry was not addressed in the course of either rebuttal.
Too bad. We urgently need this debate, and particularly on the Right.