Judah writes below that what’s happening in Basra is “pretty damning stuff for advocates of the Surge.” In the interest of stimulating a little debate here (and I invite you to weigh in by clicking on our new “discuss this item” button below), I don’t see that this is conclusively the case.
To the extent that the strategic goal of the Surge was to create space for political reconciliation, Basra’s descent into fighting is perhaps more evidence that this goal hasn’t been reached. At the same time, however, Surge advocates will be able to credibly make the argument, as I heard Fred Kagan make on NPR the other night, that what’s happening in Basra in fact validates the Surge strategy by showing what happens after a precipitous withdrawal of Western forces.
The Surge didn’t happen in Basra, after all, it happened in the Sunni triangle. In Basra, by contrast, British forces pulled out and left things in the hands of the Iraqis. If what is happening in Basra at the moment were happening in Baghdad, that would be much more damning stuff for advocates of the Surge. Instead, this descent into civil war is happening where our British allies pursued a strategy that is the complete opposite of the Surge.
Or am I engaging in magical thinking?