Sunday, January 20, 2008

Force Increases One Year Later

For just the briefest of moments there was general reflection by the media one year after the President's announcement that there would be an increase in troop levels inside of Iraq. The review of progress, the history of the surge in combat forces operating inside and outside of Baghdad, the numbers of murdered and bombings, in short a 90 second review of 12 months within the borders of Iraq.

Overall most coverage now has the positive outlook of what the increase has done for the country. Indicators were done in the second half of the year for the typical violence, and that was directly connected by the media to the boots on the ground.

Usually within the last 10 to 15 seconds however, the reporter or anchor would somberly note that the political progress that was hoped for with this escalation would follow, but has yet clearly developed. Cue next segment.

"In other news, the economy here in the U.S. is faltering and worries of a recession loom ..."

Last year at about this time I made mention of what I expected to be the result of the escalation -- more violence, at least at the outset. While that was true for the first few months, violent death and explosions did curtail through the summer months into the fall. I ended with this quote:
Some or maybe all of these instances may never come to fruition but this is the glum prediction of Iraq, and history has shown that the more dire prognostications have come true more often than the rosy ones. The Administration has constantly relied on brute force to fix Iraq, and there are few if any tangible results from said policies. The rhetoric of the President is fixed on success, but the jargon of his policy is set on destruction.

Breaking Baghdad even further is not the solution.
From the reports that came throughout 2007, it appeared that one could break Baghdad further; right along sectarian lines in fact, neighborhood by neighborhood. The city now sees less violence and more partition walls which has affected security. Yet is the country better off for the past year? Does a segregated city mean progress?

From recent citations through conservative organs, it is oft-reported that things have finally settled down and that the aggressive invasion of a foreign country followed by years of occupation are paying off and thereby vindicating the rationale for the adventure in Iraq.


The daily death toll is still the daily death toll out of Iraq. US troops continue dying (with a recent up-tick in the early part of January 2008) and Iraqis are still seeing bodies turn up in the morning on the streets, though not in the sheer volume that they were as in the beginning of 2007. Additionally, the Iraqi government is no closer to negotiating their problems away through major legislative efforts.

Bringing this to light was a post at by Tom Engelhardt reviewing some of the more trying points of much of the success talk from the right. Titled "Tomgram: CSI Iraq", Engelhardt reviews the situation in Iraq and the sight is not pretty. Throughout most of his article, he reiterates that the talk of success fills the void of what America must do next in the occupation of a foreign country. This technique is the equivalent of buying time; to make sure that the problem is not one of the Bush Administration's closing tasks but the grand opening headache of the next Administration.

At one point, the surge was begot to enable political reconciliation. That phase of the surge is essentially stillborn after six solid months of inaction on the part of the Iraqi Parliament (notwithstanding the one law passed recently allowing some ex-Baath party members to return to government positions -- provided any existed for them at this point). The city of Kirkuk, with its Sunni and Turk minorities, is just as in flux as it was in 2006 with the added gem of a Turkish government on the edge of its border waiting for any excuse to send in more combat missions into Kurdish-held northern Iraq to fight the militant groups of the PKK. If anything, the success-in-Iraq crowd tend to grudgingly allude to the failure in terms of political stability needed. For now.

Another fine article describing how well things aren't going in Iraq comes from Andrew J. Bacevich of the Washington Post. In "Surge to Nowhere," Bacevich reviews much of the same evidence for concluding that things in Iraq are not going well, but reserves much of the venom for those commentators who have rushed to parade "success" on as many news cycles as possible. From his article:
"Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor -- no doubt cause for celebration at AEI [American Enterprise Institute], although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush's successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift. Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism. Certainly, the next president will not find in Iraq a useful template to be applied in Iran or Syria or Pakistan."
With the expense of occupying Afghanistan and Iraq running between two and three billion dollars a week, it is a curious suggestion indeed what the U.S. can learn from President Bush's war. In order to stop a dictator from using weapons which he never had in the first place, George W. Bush will have placed trillions of I.O.U.s into the coffers for our grandchildren to pay later, and destabilized a region not known for stability in the first place which the country relies on for a hefty dollop of its foreign oil.

Least of which we should note the hundreds of thousands of lives terminated in the bargain. A tragedy, each and every one.

We witness the end of an empire. Good riddance.

No comments: