Conflict & Justice

Assessing the surge

People with ideological views have really tried to attribute all recent developments in Iraq to either the surge or the Awakening. Really, both deserve a lot of credit and helped the other's movement. (So when McCain trumpets his role in persuading President Bush to adopt the surge, how much credit should McCain really deserve?) McCain was one of the first to criticize Bush's administration for not sending enough troops to Iraq in the initial stages of the war, and was one of the first to call for more troops. But I think the Bush administration would've made this decision with or without McCain's views. The position regarding the surge was put forward by the generals and national security advisors. (Is there a right and wrong between McCain and Obama's beliefs on who should receive credit for the improving security in Iraq?) I think it's a false dichotomy that either was the surge or the Awakening. I do think the surge gave the Awakening councils the ability to grow and take effect and grow. I have experienced this first hand. The addition surge forces have encouraged the Awakening movement to spread and rise up against Al Qaeda, because they were just afraid to do so without extra troops in the area. The caveat now is that the extra U.S. troops are gone and the Maliki government is now trying to take the lead. So the big question is how will the Maliki government incorporate these Sunnis? Indications early on are not good that Maliki trusts these Sunnis enough to bring them into the government? (What signs have you seen that the improvements made by the surge will hold?) I think from a purely military standpoint the surge was effective. A key indicator is civilian deaths, which are down substantially. Where we go from here is unclear. A lot needs to be done is to build on these gains politically, the next gains cannot be made militarily. (Do you believe the U.S. military has learned from Iraq anything that can be transferred to any future conflicts?) I believe the surge was a success, but I don't think the war has been won because a lot more needs to be done in Iraq. General Petraeus says as much if you listen closely to him. The real issue is what we do with the Sunnis and the central Iraqi government now? Whoever is the next U.S. president, this will be a principal issue on Iraq for them.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

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