Sunday, February 17, 2008

Surge Nonsense

As we get into the meat of the political campaign season I bet we are going to be hearing more and more about THE SURGE. My Republican friends like to push the idea that "the surge is working". This is an argument that really does need exploration and not just in the superficial way that many of these issues are dicsussed.

I found a couple interesting pieces this weekend on Juan Cole's blog. This article by Patrick Cockburn is exactly what I'm talking about when I say we need to get beyond the superficial. A few highlights:

To judge from the talk in Washington, the 'surge' that put 30,000 more US troops on the ground in Iraq has succeeded in bringing stability to a nation still riven by ethnic, religious and tribal conflict. Life, the Pentagon boasts, is returning to normal. But the truth is a very different story.

In contrast to the spurious turning-points of the past, the most recent political changes in Iraq, which had led to the fall in American and Iraqi casualties, are quite real. But they differ significantly from the way in which they are portrayed in the outside world, and have less to do with al-Qa'ida and the US than the continuing struggle for power between Sunni and Shia in Iraq.
From the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 to the summer of 2006, the five million-strong Sunni community had battled the US and the Shia-Kurdish Iraqi government. Then, quite suddenly, last year many of the Sunni rebel groups switched sides and allied themselves with the Americans, formed the "al-Sahwa" or "Awakening" movement and declared war on al-Qa'ida.

"The problem in Iraq is that the agenda is driven not by what is really happening, but by the perception in America of what is happening," Ahmad Chalabi, veteran of the opposition to Saddam and one of the most astute observers of the Iraqi scene, told me. A problem is that US politicians and commentators assume far greater American control of events in Iraq than is the case. The US is the most powerful player there, but it is by no means the only one.

While I'm on the subject of Baghdad, I don't think any of us can really comprehend the situation. Wow!!!


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