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June 26, 2008

Comments

I sat right here and said I didn't want no TruCoat!

Yah, but I'm sayin', that TruCoat, you don't get it and you get oxidization problems. It'll cost you a heck of lot more'n five hunnert -

These guys here - these guys! It's always the same! It's always more! He's a liar!

Why do people attribute the reduced levels of violence to the "surge"? The main benefit has come from completing the sectarian cleaning, which is not the surge's doing at all, and from giving the Sunni insurgents money, arms, and control of the majority-Sunni areas. That part is more properly called "surrendering and paying tribute" and didn't require any increase in troop levels.

The "surge" was merely timed to coincide with other effects that actually brought down violence. The purpose, I assume, is to create an excuse for attributing the improvements to rootin'-tootin'-waving-around-phallic-symbols and blowing up mostly civilian brown-skinned heathens. Petraeus' policies would be very embarassing to the warmongers if properly interpreted. They would be personally identified as "surrender monkeys" *and* show that hated surrender monkeyism was actually the right policy in the first place.

I think that the next bit of the equation, waiting to be unveiled, is "The Surge worked, so it's time to bring the troops home."
Thus, the Dems and the GOP will be advocating exactly the same thing, but under radically different explanations.

At least, that's the only way I can see McCain making the election competitive- if he can't distance himself effectively from the "100 Years" position, he's toast.

“America is very close to succeeding in Iraq.” In fact, we are "unequivocally winning."

This is the kind of fncking bullsh1t I can't stand from the pro-war crimes band. By what right do we have to "succeed" in Iraq? WTF are we even doing there with 100,000+ troops running around the country? With thousands more "contractors" also running around, shooting up Iraqis while sucking the US Treasury dry? What. The. Fnck?

And this "America" is "succeeding" in Iraq is just fncking infuriating. yeah, we invaded a foreign country based on lies, caused the deaths of 100s of thousands of its civilians and the displacement of millions, turned Baghdad into a series of walled fortresses, and gave al Qaeda its biggest recruiting tool ever. But a few months of reduced violence due to paying off people who were killing US troops and the general completion of ethnic cleansing is "victory". Never mind the prior death and destruction for no reason. Fnck the fncking Kagans.

I'd go on but I'd probably violate the posting rules.

So Ugh, you're saying that you disagree with the Kagans' assessment then?

OT: Mitt Romney says nuclear nonproliferation is a liberal issue? We are the only ones who care whether nuclear weapons are sitting around practically unguarded all over Russia? Conservatives don't have any interest in securing them so that they don't fall into the hands of, oh, al Qaeda?

As a liberal, I think it would be nifty if conservatives wanted to cede all the good issues to us. As an American, I'm glad Romney is wrong. And as someone who is interested in, oh, the truth, I have to say: wtf?

So Ugh, you're saying that you disagree with the Kagans' assessment then?

The Kagans? Why, not at all. I was just at their estate in the Hamptons last weekend and, my, what lovely people. And can I just say that the foie gras they served was to die for? Simply scrumptious.

And here's some of the fine print that should be scrolling across the bottom of the screen, those alarming side effects:

Six members of a family were killed yesterday when a US jet destroyed their house in Iraq. Four children, aged between four and 11, were among the dead in the attack near the northern town of Tikrit, Iraqi police said. However, the US military made no mention of the civilian deaths... The strike took place after the troops saw an armed man moving into a nearby group of buildings, the officials said.
US soldiers in Baghdad killed three gunmen who fired at an American convoy that had stopped along the side of the road west of the city's airport. [who turn out to be two women and and a man going home from the bank where they work - Nell]

Sounds as if the tonic leads to jumpiness, a tendency to lash out, and reluctance to take responsibility. Maybe we ought to lower the dosage considerably.

[Fellow commenters: Too tired and disgusted to look up links now. If you don't want to believe we're killing Iraqi civilians there every day, and you want to avert your eyes, no amount of documentation would satisfy you anyway.]

Oh, criminy.

Blockquote begone.

Very tired.

OT: Mitt Romney says nuclear nonproliferation is a liberal issue?

Sure it is- since the McCain campaign feels that assassinations and successful terrorist attacks boost their stock, they've got no reason to want to keep those bombs in safe hands. A nuke in London would be the bestest campaign commercial ever!

I guess I’ll wait for part II. I was against the surge, and I’m not sure if it helped or not. But frankly, what I have seen here and elsewhere is a total refusal to acknowledge any possible positive impact and/or to explain away any positives to some unrelated phenomena.

I don’t know. But many folks seems to be 100% certain that they do know – that it did not help at all. You may well be correct. I don’t have enough information to call it yet. (Standard disclaimers – blah, blah, blah…)

But frankly, what I have seen here and elsewhere is a total refusal to acknowledge any possible positive impact

That's not quite true.

The problem is...the positive impacts are not in the areas which are long lasting or stable. It sorta isn't the point if you're looking at temporary gains---you should be looking at signs of longer term, more systemic changes. THAT would be the point of surge.

Gwangung: That was kind of my point – we can’t yet evaluate the long term impact.

But I think it’s tough for people to argue that the things that have happened would have happened anyway without the surge. That’s just not something anyone can prove.

OCSteve,
I'd also add that given the background, an administration that is willing to cheat, lie and steal, why should we believe that stated positives are actually true?

LJ: We shouldn’t of course. But I guess you’d have to write off the GAO as Bush lackeys. (Not that it would surprise me at this point, but folks here seem to still have some stock in the GAO.)

OCSteve: I think that violence has gone down more than I expected, which I'm glad about. I have questions about why: what part of it is due to al Sadr deciding to wait us out, Petraeus' Anbar strategy, the fact that Baghdad has now been successfully ethnically cleansed, etc. But it has absolutely been better than I thought, as far as violence going down.

The problem is -- well, there are several. First, the whole point was that the surge was supposed to reduce violence, which in turn as supposed to allow for political reconciliation. Not much of that has happened, and the bits that have happened, e.g. the de-de-Baathification law, have been pretty bad. So that's one problem: the surge was a means to an end, and the end has not materialized.

Another is that I don't hear a lot of interesting thoughts about what is supposed to happen next. We can't sustain this level of troops in Iraq indefinitely. What are we trying to accomplish? What is going to happen when we draw troops down? What steps are we taking to make that as OK as possible?

More generally, my problem with a lot of the discussion of this point on the right is: they discuss the surge in isolation, as though it were not supposed to accomplish anything other than a temporary decrease in violence, did not have to be part of any larger strategy, etc. Personally, I never doubted that more troops could lower violence. I mean, they're good at what they do.

But what is this all supposed to accomplish? What is the bigger picture, and how is this part of it? And -- most crucially -- what are we doing to set the conditions for the surge's end, so that our larger objectives don't just fall apart?

If you look back at what a lot of us said at the time -- well, I just did, and here's what I found: I was chiefly worried by this claim, from a WaPo article: ""[T]he Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives." No mission, no bigger picture. (See also here.)

I was also worried about breaking the army, and about the opportunity costs in places like Afghanistan, and I took very seriously the fact that the Joint Chiefs were against it. I did worry that more troops might provoke more attacks, which it's not clear happened -- possibly near the beginning, but not now. But a lot of my concerns were strategic: why this? What is it supposed to accomplish? And will accomplishing that be worth the costs?

Von seemed to be against it because he had no trust in Bush's competence (see here), and Seb because Bush hadn't said anything abut how adding more troops was actually supposed to help matters. (See text and here.)

And Andy, from a great post that I had forgotten:

"The President doesn't have a plan to win the war in Iraq, and the Democrats aren't willing to allow American troops to continue to die just because the President isn't willing to fish or cut bait. The President's plan includes no metrics to measure success, no end state that tells us what we want to see as a result of this surge, and no alternatives if it fails (doubtless in part because there's no way to actually measure the plan on its own merits). Given the President's failure, the Democrats have no choice but to insist on the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq to end America's never-ending stream of casualties without result. (...)

Tthe President has failed in his duty to offer a plan that has any reasonable chance at victory. That leaves the Democrats with two unpalatable choices: allow the President to continue an aimless war, or cut it off."

I don't think any of us assumed that violence couldn't go down. It was that there was no larger plan, and no reason to think this wasn't temporary -- that, for instance, militias wouldn't just stand down until we had to draw down again.

I am completely thrilled that violence has gone down. And I'm not being in the least sarcastic here: every kid who can play outside without fear of being shot it a wonderful thing. But what's the long-run plan? Is this sustainable? Will it outlast the surge? I don't know, and I don't see any real sign that the President is thinking about this. And that's what bugs me.

If the surge is a success, then we can leave. If the surge is a failure, we shall be forced to leave.

Thus the argument for staying seems rather weak. This is what the Bush administration calls "strategic thinking".

OCSteve,
I haven't been following whose metric-ing who, but when you cite the GAO, what did you have in mind? This WaPo article seems pretty bleak. If the argument is that I can't cite the bad news because we can't trust the admin for anything, I'd just note that the GAO report was greeted with near unanimous pushback.

In comments appended to the GAO report, the State, Treasury and Defense departments objected to its conclusions, especially the judgment that the administration needs to fashion a new strategy.

Lt. Col. Gian P. Gentile just wrote a critique of the surge in the World Affairs Journal.

The U.S. Army’s new strategy in Iraq—launched in February 2007, along with a surge of 25,000 additional American troops—qualifies neither as particularly new nor even as a strategy. Better to call it, instead, an enhanced reliance on tactics and operational concepts previously in use. Or, put less charitably, an over-hyped shift in emphasis that, on the one hand, will not necessarily yield an American victory in Iraq but, on the other, might well leave the United States Army crippled in future wars.

There's a good discussion of this essay at Abu Muqawama, including several replies by Lt. Col. Gentile.

OCSteve:

I am always all ears to facts. Can you make a cogent argument that increasing our troop levels from 150K to 170K made a meaningful difference to Iraq? I haven't even seen an attempt yet. Especially in view of the fact that they couldn't suppress just *one* of the 3 civil wars (Al-Sadr vs. the Iranian-backed Shiites) when the other two (Sunni insurgency and sectarian cleaning) were on the back burner. Every discussion I've seen from either side talks basically about Petreaus' newish counterinsurgency strategy, which I agree is a good idea, but which didn't need more troops.

If the surge is a success, then we can leave. If the surge is a failure, we shall be forced to leave.

Prefacing with that I have a certain guardedness around "the surge is working" claims, I don't think the claim is, to any substantial degree, that we're done. If we're finally on our way to grandma's house, that doesn't mean that we're already there and can therefore unfasten our seatbelts.

I'm keeping my own counsel on whether I think it's working. Something is at work; I have no idea nor inclination to opine as to whether it's the surge.

You may now return to haggling over whether the Anbar handover is success!, or just potential for more future slaughter.

will not necessarily yield an American victory in Iraq

I really fncking hate this talk about how somesuch strategy or shift in tactics etc. might produce an American "victory" in Iraq. We. Lost. We lost the day the first troops crossed the border to invade Iraq for nothing.

There are 4,000 dead American troops, 10s of thousands wounded, and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. For. Nothing. Billions and billions of dollars spent and to be spent in the future. For. Nothing. A very likely broken and crippled army. For. Nothing.

Actually, not for nothing, but so President Bush could play tough guy and WAR! Preznit. "Fnck Saddam! We're taking him out!" "Bring 'em on." So he could play out his little Oedipus complex with the lives of American and Iraqis and one up his father. So the PNAC fncks could play their little empire game. So Dick Cheney could live out his lifelong dream of remaking the office of President of the United States of America into a King. So the Democrats in Congress would not look "weak on defense." So Rove could live out his wet dream of a "permanent Republican majority."

And look at them today. Unapologetic all. Not one inkling from any of them of the horror and suffering they've caused in Iraq. Feith is going around on a fncking book tour. John Yoo continues to write op-eds for the WSJ extolling the virtues of torture. John Bolton continues to fumigate on the tee-vee. Karl Rove is on Foxnews chastising the NYTimes for outing a CIA agent. Rumsfeld is busy writing his memoirs. Condi Rice is Secretary of State. Colin Powell is on the speaking circuit. And, of course, Bush and Cheney continue on their merry way, as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain at large.

But impeachment is "off the table."

May they all fncking rot in hell.

It was real obvious, before the surge, that we could probably manipulate things in Iraq to ramp the level of violence up or down temporarily, to some degree. All the surge proves is that we are not completely passive actors in Iraq.

It was also fairly obvious, unfortunately, that the surge simply did not address our basic problems in Iraq.

Slarti: "If we're finally on our way to grandma's house, that doesn't mean that we're already there and can therefore unfasten our seatbelts."

I just keep wanting to know what this destination that we're on our way to is. -- I mean, it's not that I can't think of some lovely states of affairs: Iraq suddenly acquiring the civic culture, robust institutions, and levels of violence of Norway, for instance. That would be awesome. But I don't see what is supposed to happen when we draw the surge down.

I do think it is possible that things could be better than they might have been otherwise -- that even if some of what happened was that the militias went to ground and we bought off the Sunnis, the period of greater calm, and of course the fact that Baghdad's ethnic cleansing is now mostly over, let things shake out to a place that's better, more likely to lead to a somewhat standard weak thuggish ME government than to an all-out bloodbath.

It's also possible that the militias went to ground and will return, and that by arming the Sunnis we've made any eventual bloodbath worse. I don't know. But I do know that I see no signs at all of a larger strategy. And that worries me, since the surge really is going to have to end at some point.

I'm not really saying we have some sort of well-described destination, hilzoy, just that if we did, any movement in that direction wouldn't mean that we could then immediately quit and go home, as bobbyp seems to be suggesting.

I wouldn't even have said anything, but I've seen this argument made more than once.

Slarti: yeah, I know; about a nanosecond after I hit 'post', I thought: oh, wait, I should have said that I didn't think *you* thought 'grandma's house' was a well-defined destination; I was just riffing. But by then it was too late, alas.

the fact that Baghdad's ethnic cleansing is now mostly over

See, I would say round one is over. Round two is when the cleansed, and those that act in their name (not necessarily by request) try to retake Baghdad.

That is a goal that many of the Awakenings folks publicly acknowledge.

See, the second after I hit post, it occurred to me that hilzoy knew that I wasn't saying what she thought I was saying, and that my reply would be a waste, but it was already too late.

8]

I've declined since it was first put out by the war managers the propagandistic term 'surge', which is a euphemism for escalation. It's intended to convey a sense of something temporary and even natural.

Two facts about U.S. military operations in Iraq over the last year and a half have reinforced that view.

1 - A multi-fold increase in air attacks from helicopters, planes, and drones, along with a doubling of resulting civilian deaths (50-60 per month in 2007 per Iraq Body Count).

2 - The U.S. military-plus-support presence will be larger at the supposed end of the supposed "surge" than it was before the escalation:

The departure of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division will lower U.S. troop levels there to roughly 142,000 U.S. personnel by mid-July — at least 7,000 more than before the buildup began early last year.

The biggest drop in noncombatant deaths in 2007 was in Baghdad, in particular the decline in executions (bodies found) and in massive car/roadside/suicide bombs.

The least-discussed and certainly least-reported-on aspect of the U.S. military operations in Baghdad has been the construction of walls surrounding each neighborhood and the institution of checkpoints at each one through which residents and anyone visiting or doing business must pass.

No U.S. media outlet, not even McClatchy, has seen fit to show the reading or viewing public a map of these barriers, though a few have mentioned the numbers.

They have literally set in concrete the aftermath of a large-scale sectarian "cleansing" that has left the capital with few mixed neighborhoods, and that is a collection of military cantons.

In addition to my rants above, I would note that the glorious Bush administration has not managed to bring to justice the perpetrator(s) of the other giant terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2001 either (you know, the one that involved actual WMDs).

"No U.S. media outlet, not even McClatchy, has seen fit to show the reading or viewing public a map of these barriers, though a few have mentioned the numbers."

However lacking their overall coverage of this subject, major media outlets have occasionally provided such maps, at least in their online editions. The NY Times posted a map of the walls in Sadr City late last month.

FYI, AP just put out a story on the walls, though without any map.

Thank you so much, Blackburn. Please, B. and all: If you find any maps of the U.S.-erected walls in Baghdad as a whole, please alert me (here, or more reliably, through my blog or email).

I've been contemplating, without any enthusiasm at all given the time it would consume, doing a schematic on my own using news stories and existing maps of Baghdad.

The Sunnis of Iraq, those who haven't left the country, are not going to stop opposing the U.S. occupation. The question is whether their opposition will be political, or armed, or both.

A couple of things are tipping the likelihood back to 'both':

- The prospect that provincial elections may not happen at all this year because of the reluctance of the ruling Shia parties.

- The fact that few of the Awakening members have been incorporated into govt-payroll security services.

- The renewed possibility of a sellout by the Maliki-Talabani client government on the "security agreement" with the U.S. (recent Bush and Talabani joint appearance, news of the oil contracts, etc.)

- Fear that they'll be cut off by the U.S. military in the belief that they're not needed any more. U.S. military and Republican political mouthpiece in Iraq Larry Bergner just gave an interview to Al Hayat that reinforces that fear. (According to Badger, that is; he's not directly translating, but does link to the article for those who can read Arabic.)

Given the scale of the internally displaced and the external refugee situation, there's a pretty huge lack of understanding of what's going on with those populations. Are Syria and Jordan forcing them out? What are the numbers, and where are such returning households ending up?

And speaking of refugees: of course, the Bush administration hasn't come close to its pathetic targets for accepting Iraqis who've worked with U.S. forces. I'd be delighted to be surprised with a link to the contrary.

@OCSteve: I understand your frustration with the extent to which people like me are unwilling to acknowledging any improvements at all in the security situation. Speaking only for myself: My resistance to doing so comes from 1) the fact that such acknowledgements are always tied polemically to a demand to credit "the success of the surge", and to advocacy of keeping troops in Iraq indefinitely; and 2) my awareness of some of the complexity and fragility of the situation, due to my trying to see the situation through the eyes of Iraqis.

Sorry, that's Kevin Bergner.

(The 'Larry' crept in from Larry DiRita, I think.)

Damn. Every time I someone mentions Larry DiRita, all I can think of is Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita.

"But I think it’s tough for people to argue that the things that have happened would have happened anyway without the surge."

Which things? Which comments are you referring to?

As for the surge, it's completely simple: the surge was measurable by the benchmarks the President proposed. We've had the results: what do you think of the success of hitting the benchmarks the surge was to be measured by?

What other possible question is relevant? And it's a very simple question: so, if you'd like to discuss it, let's discuss it, please. Here is what George Bush said. Here are the benchmarks. (See linked comment for links to all three posts on the benchmarks; I'm avoiding the you-know-what filter.)

What are the results of the 18 benchmarks, Steve? What do you think, and since they had specific time deadlines, why or how could we possibly not discuss them? Let's: what do you think of their success?

OCSteve: . But frankly, what I have seen here and elsewhere is a total refusal to acknowledge any possible positive impact and/or to explain away any positives to some unrelated phenomena.

What I'm seeing is an acknowledgement that the "surge" has had no positive impact. No one except possibly President Bush ever thought it would, if you recall - back in 2007, all recommendations were for withdrawal.

The reason for sending thousands more US soldiers to Iraq when the US ought to have been planning a withdrawal was simply and purely that Bush didn't want to admit he'd led the US to spectacular defeat in Iraq: he wanted to extend the Iraq war past January 2009 and make withdrawal the next President's problem. Everyone knew this then: my recollection (without looking it up) is that then you yourself admitted that that the US had no business trying to force extra service out of troops who had already done far more than they should have to.

I haven't noticed any particular new success in Iraq. Have you?

But more than that: even assuming you can come up with some kind of temporary positive impact from having thousands more US soldiers in the country temporarily - given that the US military was overstretched and unable to cope back in 2007, what do you imagine is going to be the state of the US military come January 2009 if the "surge" is made permanent?

I'm putting this in terms of the US military, because it's pretty bloody obvious to me that with over a million people dead, four million people refugees, no one is counting how many people wounded, the US military occupation is not and never has been good for Iraq. But that never seemed to interest you much - and evidently, doesn't interest you enough for you to spend time investigating the situation in Iraq for Iraqis.

Jes: But that never seemed to interest you much - and evidently, doesn't interest you enough for you to spend time investigating the situation in Iraq for Iraqis.

You are correct. My opposition to the surge was based on my belief that the Army was broken. It only came about when it sunk in (after Nell pointed it out to me) that there were soldiers on their 5th tour. Recently I noted a soldier who was killed on their seventh tour. In military terms, that is absolute insanity and we simply can’t sustain it. Again – you are correct, or even bloody right if you prefer. My opposition was never based on “the situation in Iraq for Iraqis”. From that perspective, I retained some hope that it would help stabilize the situation. These days I’m in the Pottery Barn camp.

But in terms of the impact, I don’t see a lot of disagreement that things have gotten better. What I see is folks doing their best to credit any improvements to anything but the surge.

I was wrong to support the war initially. Could be I was wrong to oppose the surge. I’ve been wrong a lot the last few years so it wouldn’t come as any big shock to me.

These days I’m in the Pottery Barn camp.

Is that the: "You broke something, please get out of here and ideally pay for what you broke but at least get out and stop breaking stuff" camp?

Could be I was wrong to oppose the surge.

What, you're back to thinking George W. Bush was right? What a surprise.

An article in the New York Review by an anti-war writer Michael Massing who does give the surge some credit for cutting down violence--

link


Whether he's right or not, he's got some credibility with me, since his previous articles have been on the topic of US-inflicted civilian casualties in Iraq.

(The last was meant as a sarcastic joke. Kinda. But the notion that given that one US occupation has been that bad for Iraq, increasing the size of the occupation is going to be better ... well, I'm honestly not sure even Bush thought that would do anything much for the situation in Iraq: it was just his only option other than withdrawing or status-quoing.)

Ah, it's Sunday afternoon where I am and it's a lovely day. I was sanding down my front door. I was nearly mugged last night. I'm heading out to meet up with a Syrian refugee who's just been denied asylum by my government in five minutes. I don't find it easy to keep in mind that millions of people so far away have hellishly worse problems than I do: I just try to pay attention to the details.

But why should you worry? It's not as if you're ever going to be arrested, beaten up, or even kicked off a plane just because someone doesn't like your face. Have a beer.

I think OCSteve is asking a legitimate question and the answer I'd give is more or less the one I think Massing and other war opponents would give--yes, the surge has played a role in cutting down the violence, along with other, probably more important factors. This doesn't justify the war or excuse the millions of refugees or hundreds of thousands of deaths and, btw, some unknown fraction of those deaths (but probably at least tens of thousands) were at the hands of US forces.

Jes: Just attempting to give you an honest response. I didn’t assume you would approve or anything.

A little early yet for beer here, but I’ll keep it in mind for later on today.

I agree with Ugh upthread. Regardless of the success or lack thereof we lost when we invaded. We lost our honor.

Another way to look at it: wining and losing is measured by the distance one is from achieving one's goals. In this case a amjor victory is near: the four big oil comapnies who lost access back when Saddam ntionlized Iraq' oil indusgry are on the verge of advantageous contracts. Thurns out it was all about thei oil!

Fighting terrorists: big oss there no matter what happens in Bahgdad. Events in Peshawar are more important in terms of terrorism than Bahgdad.

Planting a democracy in the midst of the Middle East so that Amereican values could go viral and our influence would spread. Well. That's so lost hardly anyone even remembers that it was once the goal.

My objection to happy talk about the surge is more or less the same as Nell's. It is too easy for people to forget the pain and suffering of the Iraqis and to just gloss over the situation with "WE won! Yea for our team!"

In my opinion on the politica right the understanding of wars in general never goes much deeper than the shallowest cheerlaeding. A military victory that last just long enought to provide the opportunity for some vicgtory parades on TV will make the wingnuts feel victorious and it won't matter what the ccost was, what the political goals wewre, or what the long term consequences are. maybe my view of the political right is warped by the behavior of the noisiest rightists over VietNAm: to this day there are screamers form that side who insist taht we should have killed another million or so civilians in order to impose a dictatorship of our choosing on the country just so we could say we won. When I notice someone on the right doing a vicgtory dance over the surge that's the connotaion for me: dancing on the unnoticed uncounted dead for the ego gratificagtion of the cancer,

No, I do NOT include OSTeve in that. He's always thoughtful.

"But in terms of the impact, I don’t see a lot of disagreement that things have gotten better."

The semantic sticking point here is what content "things" stands for.

If "things" means "fewer Iraqis being killed, now that ethnic cleansing has largely been completed, etc.," sure. But is that what the surge was intended to do? No, it was intended to accomplish all the things I linked to above.

To repeat for the nth time, no one doubted that more U.S. troops could temporarily damp down violence so long as we keep them there, and in particular, negotiating with, and paying off, masses of the Sunni insurgents to quite shooting Americans -- but without in any significant way making for any sort of mutual acceptance between these groups, and the Iraqi government, has also contributed to that.

So where does that get us in terms of what the surge was supposed to accomplish, Steve? And where are we supposed to go from here? Are the "things" that are better things that anyone ever denied could be temporarily "better"? And have they accomplished much by way of making the "things" that matter: political reconciliation and stability in Iraq, "better"?

What do you think?

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