Iraq Surge Pronounced D.O.A.

By: Greg C. Reeson

It seems that saying the Iraq war was already “lost” was just not quite enough for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Apparently he and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to President Bush saying, “…the escalation has failed to produce the intended results.” So final judgment has been passed, as far as Reid and Pelosi are concerned, even though the last of the so-called “surge” troops involved in the President’s security plan for Baghdad and al-Anbar Province have just arrived in Iraq’s capital. quotes the two Democratic congressional leaders as saying that “The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation.” Maybe I’m a little bit on the slow side here, but I just don’t understand how someone can definitively declare a strategy dead before it has even had a chance to be implemented in its entirety. What happened to waiting for General Petraeus’s report on progress, or the lack thereof, due to the Congress in September?

If our elected leaders actually have a little patience and wait for the full plan to be put into action, they may be surprised at the results. In an interview with USATODAY on June 13, Petraeus said he was seeing “astonishing signs of normalcy” in at least half, and perhaps as much as two-thirds of Baghdad.

According to the paper Petraeus said, “I’m talking about professional soccer leagues with real grass field stadiums, several amusement parks—big ones, markets that are very vibrant.” Soccer leagues? Amusement parks? Vibrant markets? How can that possibly be the case if Baghdad is the center of what has been described as a country engulfed in a chaotic civil war where sectarian executions in the street are common occurrences and where people are afraid to leave their homes out of fear of being caught in the running battles between insurgents, militias and coalition forces? Is General Petraeus lying to us (a claim that is probably not far from the Senate Majority Leader’s lips)? More importantly, what basis would he have for doing so? No, the likelihood is that the general sees a glimmer of hope and is merely reporting what he is sensing as the head guy on the ground in Baghdad.

Now, this is not to say that everything is rosy in Baghdad, or elsewhere in Iraq for that matter. But it is a sign of possible progress in a country desperately seeking an end to the ongoing bloodshed and violence. And while Petraeus conceded in the interview that many problems still exist, he also said that what he sees is a sign that the new strategy in Iraq is working.

What General Petraeus is seeing in Baghdad should come as no surprise, even to the casual observer of the conflict. The American military can pacify virtually any city in the world, but only for a limited amount of time. The key to success for the “surge” security plan is, and always has been, the Iraqis themselves.

Iraqi security forces must be able to hold on to the areas cleared by American soldiers, and they must be non-sectarian in their administration of Iraqi law. They must put the nation of Iraq above their loyalties to sheikh, tribe, militia, or sectarian affiliation. And the Iraqi government must live up to its responsibilities as well. That means providing services to the Iraqi people in a fair and just manner, and not based on whether they are Sunni, Shi’a or Kurd. It means making the political concessions necessary to achieve national reconciliation, including the distribution of oil revenues, adjustments to the Iraqi Constitution, and revision of de-Baathification policies. It means getting control of the militia death squads that are perpetuating the cycle of violence. And it means treating all Iraqis as Iraqis, fairly and equitably.

It is a tall order, to be sure. We can buy some time for the government in Baghdad, but only Iraqis can do what it takes to move their country forward. The breathing room we are providing for political progress is being paid for with the sweat and blood of our sons and daughters. The patience of America’s citizens is quickly running out, and Iraqis should be cognizant of this fact. But as the final “surge” troops move into place this weekend, the least we can do as Americans is wait until they’ve had a chance to execute their mission before passing judgment on their success or failure.

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