By Andy Zelleke and Robert Dujarric
Published: July 31, 2008
A conventional wisdom has emerged that, whatever one thinks about the
But did the surge really work?
Arguments in its favour have focused on the reduction of violence. Various metrics, from Americans killed to the number of corpses dumped at local morgues, are advanced to validate its success. But this line of thought confuses stability with American interests. Stability in allied countries is, of course, highly desirable and strategically significant. But is it clear that the government in
The fever-pitched debate over judgment and the surge has ducked the single most critical issue: whether the Maliki government - undoubtedly now more effective in carrying out a government's business as a result of the larger American troop presence - and its likely Shiite successors will prove to be strong allies of the
To be sure, the surge has produced some benefit for the
First, the relative quiet produced by the surge permits the
Second, the broad acceptance of the orthodoxy that the surge has fundamentally "succeeded" at least provides cover for
Third, as a humanitarian matter, it leaves innocent Iraqi civilians with a situation more stable than chaotic - at least for now - which for most Iraqis is understandably preferable to the alternative, even for the Sunni minority that is (and, given demographics, probably will continue to be) mostly on the outside of government looking in.
That said, an assessment of whether the surge has fundamentally succeeded must be made at the most strategic level. And that is where it falls short.
But five years into this war, there is little visibility into how a post-U.S. occupation Iraqi government will deal with
Historical animosity between Persians and Arabs, combined with conflicting national interests, may impede the emergence of a full-fledged Iran-Iraq axis. Many senior Iraqi Shiite leaders spent years in exile in
The surge clearly succeeded in reducing violence and in bolstering the Maliki government. But whenever its forces leave
Is that the kind of "success" the civilian strategists had in mind?
Andy Zelleke is a lecturer in public policy at the