I’ve got a hunch that we’re on the cusp of a popular Surge backlash, more widespread than what critics have suggested for the past few months. And when it does gather force, it will probably sound pretty much like what Sam Brannen, of the CSIS, says here. It’s already clear that the improved security environment in Iraq has not led to increased Iraqi investment in the political process in Baghdad. Brannen points out, though, what I’ve yet to see mentioned, namely that it has instead led to increased American investment in the political process in Baghdad.
Increasingly, the United States has driven the Iraqi political process not just by setting benchmarks for Iraq’s parliament but also by choosing winners and losers in the informal political processes that most define the country’s power landscape. The United States is now the thread that binds Iraq, and it is clear that a serious unraveling of the situation would occur were this thread suddenly to be pulled away.
In other words, instead of making it easier for us to leave Iraq, the Surge has made it more difficult. And if that doesn’t qualify a military tactic as a failure, I don’t know what does.
But I’m beginning to think that to call the Surge a military tactic, or to speak of it as having caused some outcome or not, is a bit unfair. At some point, when we speak of the Surge, we’ll be referring more to a moment in time than to a military tactic or troop count. A moment that preceded the painful realization that no matter how much ground we eventually control in Iraq, we will have little control over the outcome.