Iraq

Kinsley: Surge Is Not a Success

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Why is the media underreporting the surge's failure?

Michael Kinsley explains:

President Bush laid down the standard of success when he announced the surge more than a year ago: "If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home." At the time, there were about 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq. Bush proposed to add up to 20,000 more troops. Although Bush never made any official promises about a timetable, the surge was generally described as lasting six to eight months.

[…]

Lately, though, Gen. Petraeus has come up with another zenlike idea: He calls it a "pause." And the administration has signed on, meaning that the total number of American troops in Iraq will remain at 130,000 for an undetermined period.So, the best that we can hope for, in terms of American troops risking their lives in Iraq, is that there will be just as many next July—and probably next January, when time runs out—as there were a year ago.

[…]

Imagine that you had been told in 2003 that when George W. Bush finished his second term, dozens of American soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis would be dying violently every month; that a major American goal would be getting the Iraqi government to temper its "de-Baathification" campaign so that Saddam Hussein's former henchmen could start running things again (because they know how); and "only" 100,000 American troops would be needed to sustain this equilibrium. You might have several words to describe this situation, but success would not be one of them.

There has certainly been quite bit of goalpost shifting over the last year.

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  1. There has certainly been quite a bit of goalpost shifting over the last year.

    And the biggest trouble with that is Bush thinks it’s a game of baseball.

  2. Remember “return on success?”

    They’ve stopped the return. That’s that.

  3. There is usually goalpost shifting in every war. If I would say that we should risk millions of Americans lives just to give a third of the world to Russian Communists most would call me crazy, yet many of those same people say that we won WWII.

  4. There has certainly been quite bit of goalpost shifting over the last year.

    You have to think of it like spending cuts. It’s not that the goalpost has shifted, it’s that it’s shifted less this past year than it has historically.

  5. Also as far as “de-baathification” is concerned, amnesty usually happens in many conflicts out of necessity. But it does hurt he lofty rhetoric that Bush used in his second ignaugural.

    But as far as the success of the surge, I do agree that its been a failure and we don’t and won’t have the financial resources to stay in this mess. That’s probably the only good thing about big government, once other people’s pie slices start getting cut smaller than previous years, they resent the source.

  6. Does PC’s 1:30 post count as Godwin-ed?

  7. I’m still pissed that we lost 26 young Americans to arrest Noriega. Boy, that really was the turning point in the War on Drugs.

  8. It’s only success when the Iraqis submit to the will of America, convert en masse to some inoffensive form of Christianity, and, most importantly, allow us to open Iraqi Disney.

  9. Heres a way to look at it: imagine if, in 2003, you were given a trillion plus dollars to spend anyway you choose (let’s set aside, for now, the other losses). Is there a single living human who would have spent it on this?

  10. There is usually goalpost shifting in every war. If I would say that we should risk millions of Americans lives just to give a third of the world to Russian Communists most would call me crazy, yet many of those same people say that we won WWII.

    Does that even make sense? We were fighting the Germans and Japanese, not the Russians, in WWII. We accomplished our goal at the cost of giving several countries (not 1/3 of the world) to the USSR.

  11. “””There has certainly been quite bit of goalpost shifting over the last year.”””

    Show me the goalpost that hasn’t shifted since 2003. Remember the war will be a matter of weeks, not months, or years.

  12. It’s just amazing to me (more than it should be, I bet) that Colbert’s “We haven’t lost yet!” parody-argument is actually the official Republican position on the war.

  13. PC:”to give a third of the world to Russian Communists”

    If we were arguing about whether the Kurds should have autonomy, your 1/3 of the world analogy might make sense. We’ll have to see when the war is over if such luxuries of debate are still available.

  14. Is there a single living human who would have spent it on this?

    At least three. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
    Yeah, that’s simplistic, but I couldn’t resist.

  15. Obama had the best formulation in the last debate; the Surge was a tactical success masking a strategic failure.

    Which is pretty damning, because the Surge was intended to achieve a strategic purpose, not just a tactical one.

  16. Why is the media underreporting the surge’s failure?

    The question was asked but never answered.
    Bait and switch.

  17. Why do you hate America, Radley?

  18. You see – it’s defeatism like this which prolongs the war. If it hadn’t been for the defeatists, Nervous Nellies, isolationists, Hollywood starlets, and others, then the war would already have ended in an American victory.

  19. Hey Max,

    Lay off the Nervous Nellies, they’re more worried that they might come down with the flu than the success or failure of Iraq.

  20. Why do you hate America, Radley?

    But Kerry would have been worse…

  21. imagine if, in 2003, you were given a trillion plus dollars to spend anyway you choose

    Do recall that diminishing marginal utility applies to that trillion dollars. The scenario to pose is, “Imagine if, in FY 2003, you set out to spend 2.1 trillion dollars anyway you choose…”

    Sure, maybe neither you nor anyone else would spend the first trillion dollars on invading a foreign country, but, after you got around to spending the first trillion on whatever else tickles your fancy and still had a trillion to go, who knows?

    Then pray consider that this whole affair didn’t even cost a trillion dollars upfront. It’s just a few hundred billion a year, paid in regular installments–with financing options available!

  22. For all of those of u that are Not in the Know:

    Gen. Betray-Us is a hand puppet…operated by GW Bush himself.

    You see, Bush puts his hands all the way up his ASS and operates the JAW…so that it appears to move as GW Bush talks.

    This war, this president, this situation, this economy, etc. will always be considered a success by GW Bush and followers.

  23. If we live now it would be chaos! Iraqis would kill Iraqis! The Political Structure would not be able to provide basic services to the Iraqi People. Al Qaeda would be gaining a victory…

    …Oh wait that’s happening right now…

  24. A “surge” followed by a “pause”? What’s he trying to do, keep from coming to quickly? Just get it over with and pull out already.

  25. leave too

  26. We’re beginning to see incidents between the Awakening Council (formerly known as The Republican Guard, Baathists and Al Qaeda) and Iraq’s regular army. If this escalates the bloom is coming off the rose before Bush exits.

  27. Jose,

    The is rose u speak of is nothing more than a plastic lilly purchased in k-mart.

    Any idiot that sees a silver lining in this cloud is nothing more than a real conservative.

  28. And the General Betrays-us again. I wonder who has lied more to the American people, Petraeus or “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel” Westmoreland?

  29. I’ve been saying for a couple of months now, that the current lull in fighting has nothing to do with the surge, but everything to do with the historic easing up of fighting in the middle east that always occurs during the winter.

    Just wait until after Rama Dama Ding Dong. All hell will once again break lose.

  30. WE WILL SPREAD PEACE AND FREEDOM NO MATTER WHAT THE COST. WE WILL BE AN EMPIRE OF PEACE AND FREEDOM.

  31. NoStar, we’ll have to wait, not too long, to see if that’s true. But the increased security in Baghdad, as part of the surge, has contributed in the drop in violence to some degree. Like I’ve been saying for months, it’s not what they do while we are there that matters as much as what they do when we start leaving. We won’t know how well the surge worked until we drawdown.

    Maybe that’s the reason for the “pause”. Let’s judge the outcome of the surge later, maybe right around election time. It would be par for Bush.

  32. Lemme guess, TrickyVic:

    “America had its ACCOUNTABILITY MOMENT, and America held John McCain accountable.”

    *smirk, smirk*

    Something like that?

  33. My memory is faulty. It is after Rama Dama Ding Dong in the fall that the fighting enters a lull.

    It is following Mawlud-un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet) that the fighting picks up. This year, I think it is in early April.

  34. A “surge” followed by a “pause”? What’s he trying to do, keep from coming to quickly? Just get it over with and pull out already.

    I think we have to do a “swirl” first. Or is it a “pinch”? I can never keep it straight, that’s why I write it on my hand.

  35. It’s our debating of the war in Iraq that has emboldened our enemies! Stop it right now! Fall in line, like the rest of us true lovers of freedom!

  36. A “surge” followed by a “pause”? What’s he trying to do, keep from coming to quickly? Just get it over with and pull out already.

    Lol, threadwinner.

  37. Acountability moment? I’m not sure if the GOP knows what that means. Maybe they do but it would be something that applies to the other guy.

  38. After all Bush is holding up the nation’s most important legislation ever created because some companies who didn’t violate any law, need immunity.

  39. He’s only holding up that law because the terrorists will kill us all unless it passes.

  40. Why is the media underreporting the surge?

    Fixed

  41. If I was looking for a good libertarian explanation for war or the lack of it the first place I know where to look would be Michael Kinsley.

    Hey guys how about little less cut and paste from the lefties and a little more of the “look at it in a third way” Reason is renowned for.

  42. Hey guys how about little less cut and paste from the lefties and a little more of the “look at it in a third way” Reason is renowned for.

    I need a ruling from the judges. Do we drink for this one?

  43. thoreau,

    When in doubt, drink a stout. Or functional equivalent.

  44. “look at it in a third way”

    We are looking at it in the third way.

    The Democrats say it’s a clusterfuck.

    The Republicans say it’s a success.

    We say it’s a successful clusterfuck.

  45. When in doubt, drink a stout.

    I thought it was “when in doubt, pull it out.”

  46. NoStar-

    The data thus far does not support your hypothesis.

  47. Kolohe,
    Very interesting. That graph shows spikes in deaths around the time of both festivals except in the spring of 2005 and a randomized yet generally increasing number of deaths as time goes on.

    Thanks for showing me that.

    NS

  48. Two observations:

    This is a strange topic for Balko, who usually works the “violation of civil liberties at the hands of the state” theme.

    Second, Krauthamer wrote an editorial in the same issue of the Washington Post that concluded the surge is working. He makes some very good points, as he always does.

    I am here on the ground in Iraq right now. The surge is working. What Kinsley and many others are really complaining about is that Iraq is not already a shining example of law-abiding democracy. Kinsley wants to skip the ugly middle period.

    My kids also want to skip the various difficult middle periods and go straight to being rich, and buff and college-educated and so on. I remind them that the hard-work part can’t be skipped. Somebody needs to tell Kinsley.

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