Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Surge Is So 2007

When even John Murtha says the surge is working, inquiring strategists start thinking, "What next?" Two stories on Iraq in the post-surge era offer both insights and suggestions.

About a week ago, Omar Fadhil posted What Happens After the Surge at Pajamas Media (a Watcher's Council nominee this week), and today the other C-SM carries Christopher Kojm's Here's the Surge Iraq Needs.

Fadhil focuses his attention on the Iraqi government's crackdown on the Association of Muslim Scholars, a front group for Sunni, al Qaeda-related violence in Iraq. It's interesting that this squeeze is both process- and politically driven, a sign of increasing maturity in the Iraqi government.
Unlike previous operations, this one is different in that the troops were sent following a request submitted to the government by the department of Sunni endowment, an entity in charge of overseeing Sunni mosques and other religious activities. The chief of the Sunni endowment, Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour Samarraie, is a moderate Sunni cleric who has renounced the insurgency and explicitly accused the association of assisting al-Qaeda by justifying their murderous attacks against Iraqis.
Politically, the move was possible because Iraq's government no longer needs or seeks the support of Sadr's Shi'ite militia and, indeed, is actively involved in prosecuting Mahdi Army/Iraqi government officials charged with running death squads.
In Karbala, as a most recent example, the police chief finally declared the Mahdi Army, an outlaw group. He accused them of murdering over 700 Iraqi civilians, 70 police officers, kidnapping over 130 civilians as well as conducting some 50 attacks with roadside bombs over the last three years in Karbala province alone.

In my opinion, what we’re seeing right now is an exploitation of the achievements of the surge strategy in the direction to establish rule of law-step by step.
Kojm (Council on Foreign Relations, former 9/11 Commission deputy director) agrees, but cautions that the surge is so 2007.
What the US needs in 2008 is a surge of political, military, diplomatic, and humanitarian activity across the board, in order to achieve a reduced but still attainable objective in Iraq – stability. Without stability, more ambitious goals cannot be achieved. With it, US forces can begin to withdraw.
Kojn's argument has many common Council on Foreign Relations flaws -- the assumption that Iraq's neighbors "need" stability, and that negotiations with Iran may lead somewhere positive -- but he makes some good points nonetheless, especially this:
We need to press the Iraqi government as hard as we can on questions of national reconciliation. Why? Because the current moment of hope in Iraq will fade unless Sunnis see a future for themselves in the life of their country. They need to be brought into the Iraqi Army, police, and government ministries. They need a chance to vote for their own elected representatives at the provincial level. They need to share in Iraq's oil wealth. Otherwise, the current lull in violence will be just a timeout in an unfolding sectarian war – and a future Iraq made up of gangs and warlords.
It brings up visions of the IRA, whose blood-soaked terror war was more about economic and political equity than about theological differences between Catholics and Protestants.

Kojn also points to the need to maintain diplomatic pressure on Turkey and Saudi Arabia to continue the move towards stability (and Iran, but really!), and the need to address with more compassion the Iraqi refugees. Many of them are returning to a more stable Iraq now, something Kojn doesn't mention, but in the larger picture, helping these refugees find homes and jobs upon their return is critically important to Iraq's stability, and the U.S. budget for Iraqi refugees -- equal, Kojn says, to the cost of one day of fighting the war -- is not sufficient.

All this thinking of post-surge strategies would not be possible, of course, were it not for the success of the surge. That someone like Kojn has the opportunity to write the column he wrote is a testament to the unquestioned success of the strategy.

But the surge is our first truly successful strategy in Iraq since Saddam's government toppled. I wish we could assume that the Bush administration will gracefully move on to the next well thought out step, but history tells us that articles like these are needed to keep the pressure on.

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