Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Serge in Iraq

I know, I know, it's not Serge in Iraq, it's Surge in Iraq. I spelled it that way to illustrate the power of words. Serge in Iraq sounds absurd, useless, suspiciously fay; Surge in Iraq sounds strong, manly, irresistible.

And that's part of the reason I don't like the idea. The word, which in the last week has cropped up everywhere in the media, is too easy to love. My sense is that, like the Vietnam era domino theory and the more recent examples of "ink spots" and "clear, hold, and build," the nomenclature does more to distract than it does to illuminate. Examined closely and thoughtfully, "surge" doesn't... well, it doesn't hold water.

A surge is a "sudden large increase, typically a brief one." Large? Where will the troops come from? The numbers most commonly discussed are in the 15 to 30,000 range. I'm not a military man, and have only common sense to apply here, but... if General Shinseki was right, and we needed at least 350,000 troops to secure Iraq almost four years ago when conditions were so much more favorable, I don't understand what an extra 15 to 30,000 that takes us up to about 150,000 is going to do now, when the situation is so much worse. As it stands, we can't even prevent saboteurs from cutting off Baghdad's electricity.

As for brevity, the talk is of six to eight months. Hard to see what can be accomplished in that timeframe, when in nearly four years conditions have become so dire. In any event, six to eight months doesn't sound like a long time for insurgents to wait for the surge to recede, after which we'll surely see surging insurgents.

Here's another concern: a surge is a zero sum game. A surge comes from somewhere, and wherever it comes from, there's an equivalent amount less there while the surge lasts. So where will the extra troops come from? We'll either extend deployments and shorten leave, which would put even more strain on the military, or we'll pull the troops from somewhere else, handing over more territory to insurgents in the process. Probably we'll do both.

Because surging in Baghdad means a vacuum in, say, the rest of Anbar province, the "surge" option would be more accurately labeled "pulling the goalie." AKA, a desperation move you try when time is almost out, you have no other options, and the game is otherwise certainly lost. Of course, "pulling the goalie" isn't as appealing a product name as "The Surge," and would therefore present a tougher sell to the public.

As I've argued before, Bush's goal now is to forestall further setbacks long enough to leave office without definitively losing Iraq. Whether the situation there will continue to deteriorate slowly enough, and whether the Republican establishment and the Democratic legislature will permit Bush to play it this way, is hard to say. At this point, all the possible outcomes are ghastly. My sense is that, like a defunct auto plant that is more expensive to close than to keep open, we won't make any real decisions on Iraq for quite some time, and not until things are dramatically worse there.


The Dark Scribe said...

Another catch-phrase the politicos have been tossing about lately is, "Things must get worse before they get better." This cliche is both inaccurate and arrogant. Things have been getting worse in Iraq for four years, and now we're pretty much at the point where we just want to stop the skid and save some lives (both American and Iraqi).

Anonymous said...

The word does nothing to inspire my confidence. The problem with "surge" is that, in my experience, surges of electricity are always followed by the electricity going off. We surge, cause a small spark, and disappear?


porchwise said...

Our primary interest in the whole area is (and has always been) black gold. All the other excuses are political blather. Until alternative energy is put into production (hear the Barons yell?) we will only pull back until that particular civil war ends...which will lead to another..and another..ad infi..

PBI said...

Come to think of it, Barry, I like "serge" better than "surge." I'm all for sending fine, worsted wool to Iraq instead of additional U.S. troops!

Sensen No Sen

JD Rhoades said...

George Dubbya Bush is stalling, putting off the inevitable retreat from his failed policy until he's out of office and he and his cult can blame someone else. In the meantime, our people keep dying.

Faith Bicknell said...

Hi there. Found my way here through a fellow author. Nice website and blog. I'll be back to read more.

Zinnia said...

I agree. 15K-30K in troups isn't going to do a lot. Iraq worries me alot. Of course, it worries thousands of people, but I have a son who's determined to go into the military and that SCARES me.

Anonymous said...

I'm personally beginning to believe that Iraq is like a wayward child: one that, while not an outright felon, is able to flaunt the rules while he still lives with mom and dad (America). When he's forced to leave the house and gets slapped in the head with the real world, he starts following the rules because he has to. I think this is what will happen in Iraq and we should force the issue of the Iraqi government taking care of itself. As Ralph Peters has pointed out with more eloquence than I can muster, the Arabs have a history of finding a way to fail over and over again. When they can't find a good infidel to blow up, they gladly find a neighbor.

That being said, Saddam did everything he could to encourage invasion. He was an animal trained by a decade of UN complacancy and he payed in spades. If the UN had enforced its own rules, especially looking through post 9/11 glasses, many of these problems would not exist. As usual, America, being king of the hill, is the target for those who want the title and when she is attacked, the entire world peeks from the corner of a shuddering eye, just to see what she'll do. They know she'll eventually do something, and most of Europe usually hopes America will move to destroy the various threats that arise. But Europe's leaders can sit back and decry war and violence, while at the same time feeling safe in the knowledge that if events were carried too far by a foreign state, America would be there to lend a helping hand.

Douglas Moore