Monday, July 21, 2008

Understanding the Surge - 'Winning' the War on Credit

Perhaps it's because I am in the U.S., but I am being flooded with quotations from John McCain declaring that if the U.S. had followed Obama's path (or withdrawing from Iraq) the U.S. would have 'lost' the war.

This is patently ridiculous. Any problems to American security were the result of the war, and not prevented by it. The U.S. would have 'won' (by any contemporary definition) by never having had invaded Iraq in the first place.

Moreover, insofar as the purported purpose of the war was to remove Saddam Hussein and to eliminate WMDs, then the war was 'won', by any definition, in the first few weeks of the conflict. Subsequent problems - such as the dangerous destabilization of the region, and the widening influence of Iran (which McCain) cites, were caused by the war, not prevented by the war.

But let's suppose none of that applies. Lets suppose that 'winning' the war means something like bringing order to Iraq, keeping the peace, and facilitating the transfer of power to Iraq. Then you could say that the surge is working, couldn't you?

Well - no.

What the surge is doing is obtaining military results on credit. It is extending U.S. military commitment beyond its ordinary capacity, requiring stop-loss and other extraordinary measures. The surge is something that cannot be sustained long-term. It creates short-term gains, and the illusion of winning. But people hostile to the U.S. - people like Muqtada al-Sadr, for example - simply bide their time and wait for the U.S. to exhaust itself.

Meanwhile, Iraq is still not safe, and - as Obama points out - the U.S. lack resources to deal with other significant issues - things like, say, the occupation of Afghanistan, or any domestic emergency on the scale of Hurricane Katrina.

There is no success here. To say that the war is currently being won is an out-and-out lie. The only way the U.S. can maintain even a semblance of control in Iraq - and maintain those oil supplies - is to maintain a larger troop commitment than it can sustain. It is living on borrowed time. The American people are being sold a sham victory on credit.

A better plan? Get out of Iraq, and spend the trillion dollars instead on energy independence and national infrastructure.

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