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Lionel Beehner Headshot

The Surge is a Farce

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If anyone criticizes the surge in Iraq -- as I have on occasion -- they are accused of not supporting the troops, of questioning the divine wisdom of David Petraeus, of being a weak-kneed defeatist. This is utterly ridiculous. Let's look at the facts:

The drop in violence has nothing to do with the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops. "The dramatic decline in bloodshed in Iraq... is largely due to Muqtada al-Sadr's August 2007 unilateral ceasefire," according to a new International Crisis Group report. Hence, John McCain has Muqtada, not David Petraeus, to thank for his newfound success at the polls. Sadr has promised another six-month ceasefire -- which would inconveniently end right before the U.S. election in November.

The so-called "Sunni Awakening" is also a sham. We are, in effect, arming and bribing Sunnis to kill al-Qaeda in Iraq forces, not us or the Shiites. "The strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight," writes Nir Rosen in Rolling Stone. In so doing, he adds, "the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war."

The whole point of the surge was to provide the space for Iraq's leadership to make political progress and reconciliation. Again, that too has failed. The Iraqis have passed just four of the 18 benchmarks put forth by the Bush administration. Even a law calling for provincial elections this October was vetoed by the Presidency Council, a result of factional Shiite infighting.

Now there is talk of a "pause" in troop reductions, even though the point of the surge was to reduce the troop levels from 150,000 back down to about 130,000 by July and about 100,000 by the end of 2008. Not gonna happen. As Michael Kinsley writes in Slate, "The surge will have surged in and surged out, leaving us back where we started."

This blind support for the surge is really galling. Of course, the positive direction of things in Iraq in terms of casualty counts and suicide attacks is a welcome development -- but let's not kid ourselves why there has been this reduction in violence. Keeping more American soldiers in harm's way and arming willing factions in a civil war are not going to bring about political reconciliation in Iraq.