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The Surge Doesn't Make Military Sense

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Now that John McCain and Dick Cheney have made their surprise visits to Iraq, expect another media-coordinated, officially dispensed round of rosy propaganda about how wonderfully the surge (read: escalation; read: permanent occupation) is going.

Beats me how Cheney can delude himself into believing that he can somehow serve as a rehabilitated voice of worldwide credibility on Iraq. But why aren't respectable pundits and reporters simply scoffing or laughing at him? And what does it say about the dark times in which we live when John McCain isn't being booed, hissed, and heckled off the presidential soapbox as he campaigns for an indefinite continuation of our idiotic presence in Iraq? I'm baffled about why thoughtful observers aren't recognizing and identifying John McCain as the very face, for our epoch, of impaired logic and corrupted vision.

I'm not going to rehearse the common critique about the surge's obvious political failings. We all know that the relative reduction in violence, such that it seems to be as selectively reported to us, hasn't produced anything close to national reconciliation in Iraq -- which was the whole point of the surge. But proponents are clinging to any glimmer of military stability as a sign of impending success somewhere over the rainbow. They lash out at critics as naysayers and defeatists. Their ad hominem attacks and convoluted rationalizations are desperate and divisive, but that overall preemptive strategy seems to be fending off widespread outrage for the time being.

My point is to focus again on the military strategy. What, exactly, is it? President Bush has told us time and again -- and again at the time of proposing the surge -- that we are fighting terrorists "over there" in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them "over here" in the United States. But one of the first things we did in the surge was to seal the borders in Iraq, to prevent foreign insurgents from entering. (With the extra troops we also facilitated neighborhood ethnic separation or cleansing, further segregated Shias from Sunnis, bought off tribal and religious leaders, hired as many other Iraqis as American money could buy, and pored good ol' American tax dollars into reconstruction projects.)

But back to the border issue: We tried to keep Al-Qaeda terrorists out of Iraq. Wasn't that new-found goal of stabilizing the country (for political reconciliation) fundamentally at odds with our greater global strategy of confronting, engaging, and fighting terrorism in Iraq rather than elsewhere? Why are we now trying to keep them out of Iraq -- displacing the violence -- so that they are free to fight us closer to home? Can this glaring military contradiction, a flip-flop in strategy from confrontation back to cold war containment, simply be elided, spun, and finessed?

My own gut feeling is that the neo-cons and hard-core Bushies just don't care. They are clinging to the pretense of eventual success in Iraq surely in order to save face (and/or oil). They want to construe the repression of violence in Iraq as achieving a "victory" over terrorism. But it's not. So what's the point? McCain clearly wants to pander to the Republican base. But the Cheney-ites want vicious vindication. They ultimately want to win a think-tank, talk-show, and op-ed page argument vis-à-vis their domestic adversaries regarding the propriety of being in Iraq at all. They want to say, "We told you so -- we were right all along!" They want to scorn their critics. And they go farther. They want to brand their fellow citizens as anti-troop, un-patriotic and un-American.

The sad conclusion to this analysis: The happy-talk surge proponents are today more concerned with fighting domestic interlocutors at home than they are genuinely concerned about fighting terrorist enemies abroad.