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Cautious optimism about the Surge (update)
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, March 03, 2007

All right, it's week three and perhaps you're wondering how everything is going with the "surge".

Apparently fairly well. Ralph Peters has a piece in the NY Post yesterday which I want to reference for a specific reason. It brings to light some terrific points.
My best source in Baghdad offered a soberly optimistic assessment at odds with the "Gotcha!" negativity in Washington. He doesn't claim that success is guaranteed. But he believes in his head, heart and soul that we've got a fighting chance.

And I believe him.
I do as well. As readers here know, I wasn't a fan of the surge or engaging in counterinsurgency operations. But I have to agree that it appears, at least in the very early stages, that there's indeed a "fighting chance" it will succeed. That's a positive development.

Peters then makes three important points that you should keep in mind when making your own analysis of the situation:
* Of the five additional U.S. brigades headed for Baghdad, only one is in place, with the second starting to arrive. Yet the city is already quieter and safer. The terrorists continue to detonate their bombs - with suicidal fanatics targeting the innocent - but sectarian killings (death-squad hits) have dropped from over 50 each night down to single digits.
Got that? Thus far, only 20% of the US surge force is in Baghdad. Yet the sectarian death-squad killings are dramatically down. That means two things. That statistic should get even better when the entire force is in Baghdad and secondly, it appears it is the ISF which is mostly responsible for this decline in killings. Another positive.
* The tactic of stationing U.S. units and their Iraqi counterparts down in the Baghdad 'hoods is already paying off. (It should have been used from the outset - instead of hunkering down on massive bases. But better late than never.) The effort has triggered a flood of intelligence tips: When citizens feel safe, they cooperate. And when they help us, our success compounds.
In other words, Baghdadis are taking sides. They're placing bets on the future. And they are feeling secure enough to do it. That is a monumental positive.
* U.S. commanders now have a lot of experience in Iraq. They're not wide-eyed kids at the circus anymore. They understand there are no uniform, easy answers to Iraq's violence and complex allegiances. As a senior officer put it, "Every neighborhood and city is unique, with their own challenges."
None of the one-size-fits-all mentality which is so prevalent in large organizations such as the military. A recognition such as this is critical. And the experience factor is equally as critical. Knowing that they have to approach each neighborhood as a unique set of circumstances needing a custom approach and having the experience to know how to do that is again a big positive.

And as I've noted from Mohammed at Iraq The Model, perhaps the biggest indicator of growing success is the fact that people who previously fled the sectarian violence in Baghdad are returning to their neighborhoods. You can't place a larger bet on success than betting your life and the life of your family on the promise by the government to protect your safety.

Bottom line: This, at least in the initial weeks, looks very promising. And, on the economic front we're near a deal on oil revenue sharing and on the diplomatic front, there's a scheduled meeting with Iran and Syria about Iraq.

In other words, things are going fairly well for the moment. Everyone should be able to understand that a successful surge is in the best interests of both the US and Iraq. Or said another way, we should all be cheering this progress (finally) and getting behind it and supporting it.

We should, but ...

UPDATE: Omar at Iraq the Model gives us an on-the-ground update for week 3:
As we noted in earlier reports, we feel safer about moving around in the city now than we did a month before. I have recently been to districts in Baghdad where a month or two ago I wouldn’t have thought of going to. In the last week or two I’ve showed my ID to soldiers and policemen in checkpoints dozens of times. A few months ago this was considered an extremely risky thing to do — especially for someone whose ID shows a name and profession such as mine. “Omar” is a pure Sunni name and everyone here knows that scores of young Baghdadi men were killed by death squads just because they had the name.

Numbers are always useful in assessing results of any effort, and the numbers so far are on the good guys’ side. I read today that the count of various death squads’ victims for this month is one half that of January, and little more than one third that of December of last year. This comes from the official figures reported by the Baghdad morgue.
The other number that’s become one of the important parameters for assessing the situation in the Baghdad is the number of displaced families that have returned to their homes since the beginning of Operation “Imposing Law.” This one too is giving a positive sign. The last official count by the authorities brought the total to little over 1,020 families in just two weeks according to Baghdad paper al-Mada.
Again, seemingly small things ... the ability to visit neighborhoods he wouldn't even attempt a month ago and feeling secure enough to show his ID which clearly points out he's a Sunni ... but in Baghdad, huge differences for its residents.

And another very interesting sign of the change:
While many Iraqi families are returning to the homes they once were forced to leave, there are also Baghdadis who are reopening their stores, ending the months they spent out of business because of violence and intimidation. Some streets that were virtually deserted a few months ago are slowly showing signs of returning to life.

The reopening stores even include some liquor shops! There are two stores on one street that I used to shop that closed early last year when their owners received death threats from the insurgents and the militias. Yesterday I walked through that street and, to my amazement, I found both stores open and back in business.
 
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I do as well. As readers here know, I wasn’t a fan of the surge or engaging in counterinsurgency operations. But I have to agree that it appears, at least in the very early stages, that there’s indeed a "fighting chance" it will succeed.
Sigh. If you had been a Soviet Communist, you’d have claimed in 1991 that despite the recent problems, Communism can still rebound, and you’d selectively choose authors and arguments to bolster that.

Can you not see you are engaged in wishful thinking? Read the story in Time this week about the intensity of the sectarian hatred. The insurgency is not the problem for Iraq. Given the high cost in money, lives, and given how this has divided America, how can it ever be seen as a success (especially compared to the expectations and original goals)? President Bush sacrificed his "ownership society" much like LBJ sacrificed his "great society" thanks to a misguided war. For what? To hope that there can be enough short term stability to at some point leave with the ability to save face?

You’re a true believer. But reality has a way of defying even the most fervent of beliefs.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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