This Commentary article by Peter Feaver, who served as special adviser for strategic planning to the NSC from 2005-2007, is about as positive a spin as can be put on the failures made in prosecuting of the Iraq War, complete with a very rosy appraisal of how the Surge managed to turn things around in the nick of time. About the only sentence in the article that I agreed with was this one:
The Petraeus-Crocker report to Congress will no doubt offer further evidence that the new approach is working but is far from having completed its assigned task.
No doubt that’s the evidence they’ll be offering, that is, though I remain unconvinced it’s true.
Be that as it may, Feaver has a point when he argues that by late-2006/early-2007, most war critics (including the Iraq Study Group) were essentially calling for an accelerated version of the administration’s war strategy: the combination of military training and political brokering that would allow Iraqis to stand up so we could stand down. What I found fascinating, though, is the degree to which Feaver basically admits that this horrified administration planners because, notwithstanding what they were floating in the press at the time, they knew that their war strategy was in the process of failing miserably.
This, too, is pretty damning stuff:
The challenge, therefore, was to develop and implement a workable strategy that could be handed over to Bush’s successor. . .
Whatever you thought of the Surge’s chances when it was unveiled, or however you now assess its outcome, the calculus changes dramatically as the time factor for American military involvement in Iraq lengthens. And while no one ever promised that it would result in a quick victory, it was intended to have a decisive impact, not simply to push things down the road for the next administration to sort out all over again come 2009.
The article is from the April print issue and went to print well before last week’s fighting in Basra, so you can be certain Feaver wishes he could have this one back:
The rogue elements within the Shiite militias are being pruned away. The Iraq Security Force is growing in size and reliability. And, following the decision of Sunni tribes to turn on al Qaeda and throw in their lot with the United States and the new Iraq, local political accommodation is proceeding at a remarkable pace.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard claims like these about progress in Iraq, only to find out they’re a crock. (Although it might be the first time we found that out before the article actually hit the stand.) In fact, that’s what we heard throughout 2005 and 2006. But if it wasn’t true then (and according to Feaver, even the administration had already reached the conclusion that it wasn’t), why should we believe it now, especially in the aftermath of Basra? Between the Bush administration and my lying eyes, I think I know who I’ll be believing from here on out.
But give it a read and judge for yourself. I link to it in the interests of presenting opposing opinions, even those I don’t find terribly convincing.