When explaining the goals of the "surge" at the beginning of the year the president said this:
"When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible."
Ten months later, the political reconciliation process in Iraq has utterly collapsed:
"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
"There has been no significant progress for months," said Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents and the most influential Sunni politician in the country. "There is a shortage of goodwill from those parties who are now in the driver's seat of the country."
Iraqi leaders say there are few signs that Maliki's government is any more willing to share power now than 15 months ago, when he unveiled a 28-point national reconciliation plan. A key proposal then was an amnesty for insurgents -- an "olive branch," Maliki said at the time -- to bring members of the resistance into the political fold.
In the face of the glaring evidence that the primary goal of the surge, that of fostering political reconciliation, has not been achieved, we are subject to a daily drumbeat from the right-wing blogosphere that the surge is "working". This is based upon the analysis of various metrics that appear to show that the surge has achieved success in tamping down the violence in Iraq. The neoconservative blogger Engram is an expert on such metrics. I am not and don't claim to be. I have always been skeptical of these metrics since they are sometimes subject to a significant amount of interpretation. Exactly what defines someone as "al Qaeda"? Do they come with an identifying stamp on their forehead? How do you know a suicide bombing was Al Qaeda (there are other extremist groups in Iraq who do use suicide bombing as a tactic; some Sunni insurgents have also duped Shiites into unknowingly carrying suicide bombs)? How do you define a death as a "sectarian" killing? Bullet through the back or the front of the head?
Nevertheless, when one looks at the broader aggregate measures of violence there has been a reduction in the mayhem during September and into October. This did, of course, coincide exactly with the "Tet Offensive" that all of the rightwing bloggers and pundits predicted but which did not happen for reasons I suggest in this post.
So let's set aside for a moment the debate over whether the surge is solely responsible for the decrease in violence, and return to the central objective of the surge which was explained by President Bush. The entire purpose of the surge, in his words, was to provide "breathing space" for "reconciliation" which clearly has not happened. Therefore, while the surge may have succeeded in reducing violence (I think other factors were more important), it has utterly failed at its primary goal of helping the Shiites and the Sunnis reconcile their differences and begin to cooperate under a system and government that represents them all and that they can all support.
Still, in the face of these undeniable facts, we are told that our occupation of Iraq must continue indefinitely into the future with no timetable for bringing it to a conclusion. What I find fascinating about the neocons is that no matter how much "progress" or "success" their side claims the end result is never that we should begin bringing the troops home. If the policy has worked so well, why can't we at least begin that process?
The reason is that the central neocon objective on Iraq is a perpetual US occupation like we have in South Korea. There exists no set of goals that the troops could achieve that will cause them to advocate a draw down our presence. In addition, there exists no set of benchmarks that, having failed to be achieved by the Iraqis, will cause the neocons and rightwing blogosphere to favor allowing our troops to come home.
In other words, there is nothing that our troops can do, and nothing that the Iraqis can fail to do, that will bring the neocons to say the troops can come home. The troops essentially must remain in Iraq forever. If you doubt me on this, just ask a neocon for a single enforceable benchmark that would trigger a troop withdrawal if the Iraqis fail to achieve it. They won't give you one.
To the neocons, each and every turn of events in Iraq is a reason for continuing our presence there indefinitely. If the violence is up, then we can't leave because a bloodbath could erupt. If the violence is down, then we can't leave because our strategy is "working". Perfect circular logic.
I'm sure their stance will continue at least for the next 16 months, until Hillary is inaugurated at which time all of them will turn viciously on the Iraq War as a disaster and a debacle that is all of the Democrat's doing. Of that I have no doubt.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!