I still hear conservatives talk about the Surge during the Iraq War. It continues to seem bizarre to me for a few reasons. First, the Surge didn’t work. It just corresponded to the Awakening when moderate Sunnis started fighting against the jihadist elements in Iraq. Things didn’t improve because we sent in an extra 30,000 troops. I thought this had been well established. Second, the Surge didn’t win the war; it just took it from a total catastrophe to a smaller catastrophe. But third and most important, who cares what happened in 2007?! That was almost a decade ago. Why are conservatives continuing to talk about it?
The solution was found in an excellent article by Peter Beinart, The Surge Fallacy. Right about the time of the Surge, conservatives were turning against the neoconservative project in a big way. But all those same people are now back on board. And the reason is the supposed success of the Surge. I suppose it does go along with another favorite conservative myth: the “We weren’t allowed to win in Vietnam!” narrative. By that myth, if only the military had been allowed to drop more bombs — Or nuclear bombs! — then we would have “won” the war. I think of it as the “parking lot” approach to war and it shows that people who push these ideas have no clue what war really is.
But what Beinart calls “the legend of the surge” is even more pernicious:
Of course, Bush had not “won” the war. Although the violence was greatly reduced, the Surge itself hadn’t succeeded at it’s main goal: political reconciliation. The point of it was to create a stable political system where the “Sunni and Shia Arabs and its Kurds all felt represented by the government.” This never occurred. It’s not hard to see why. The Shia had been oppressed for a long time. Now they had power and they were going to use it:
That’s long before 2011 when Obama supposedly screwed everything up by withdrawing troops. But this isn’t to say that Obama is blameless. It is just that the things Obama did to harm the situation (mostly supporting the corrupt, power hungry Nouri al-Maliki) are things that the Republicans agree with. The point is that there was a bad situation under Bush. It got no better under Obama. The problems in Iraq are the result of that, not the withdrawal.
Beinart ended by noting that the Republicans are right back to the hubris that brought us the Iraq War in the first place. But even though most of the Republican candidates for president are talking about sending ground troops into Iraq, that is unlikely to happen. But there is a broader problem:
That’s even more frightening. But the Republican Party has always seemed like jocks in the locker room before a big game: pumping themselves up as though they can win by will alone. The Iraq War shows that wisdom comes very slowly. And then, with the slightest hint of success, it is jettisoned for their easy bellicosity.