Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Surge and the Political Sale

Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey, U.S. Air Force (from here)

Much as I really don't want to link to Bob Woodward, he reminds us that "the surge" is not what this apparently benighted US electorate thinks it is.

What has made some headway in quelling, relatively, the violence in Iraq = US assassination squads + the Anbar Awakening + Moqtada al-Sadr's suspension of Mahdi Army operations + extra security stations (basically, "the surge").

But... in June of this year, the GAO released its report on Iraq (.pdf), concluding that, as Jim Johnson summarizes it:
(1) Despite some progress, in Iraq, "the security environment remains volatile and dangerous."
(2) The Iraqis remain light years away from being able to assume responsibility for their own security.
(3) Progress on political and constitutional matters in Iraq is, politely, lacking.
(4) The Iraqis are not coming close to funding the social and physical reconstruction of their country.
The things the surge was supposed to do haven't yet been done, unless we redefine the goals of the surge after the fact, and much of the drop in violence is due to happy accidents beyond US control.

The McCain campaign says that his support of the surge shows how prescient McCain is on foreign policy issues and how much, tiresomely, he is a "maverick" for bucking conventional wisdom. The surge just is McCain's big moment of supposed foreign policy expertise. But it was basically a gamble which turned out better because of some completely unforeseen things combined with a re-spinning of "the surge." It would be a very good thing (please) for some big media journalist with some level of knowledge of Iraq to ask McCain more detailed questions about the nature of the surge, its achievements, and its longer-term goals. The question should also be asked of Obama.

2 comments:

jonst said...

Helmut wrote: "It would be a very good thing (please) for some big media journalist with some level of knowledge of Iraq to ask McCain more detailed questions about the nature of the surge, its achievements, and its longer-term goals. The question should also be asked of Obama".

You are correct of course. But it is not going to happen. Period. First, no one is going to ask it. No one with the expertize you call for would be allowed to get near either candidate for an extended interview. This is true on the so called "surge". It is true on health care. It is true on energy. It is true on the environment. Extended interviews with experts don't happen. Period.

It is pointless at this stage to refuse to acknowledge the "surge" has been deemed a success. In the minds of Americans and with the American media. Obama's interview with O'Reily was the last nail in the coffin. He said it, the surge, 'succeeded beyond its wildest expectations' or some such simplistic nonsense as that.

The way to counter the surge is go after the costs. Americans like to think of themselves as generous, good natures innocents that slick foreigners take advantage of. That this is patent nonsense is beside the point. This is the narrative they buy into. So feed it to them. 'Whether the surge works or not...YOU are paying for it folks. And the bill comes to billions a day/month. This is money that could go to pay for your kid's college. Or a bridge in Minnesota. Or a hospital wherever. Or a tax cut. The rest of the world is taking advantage of our generous nature. And I will stop it immediately after taking office'. That is what will sell.

helmut said...

Jonst - I think you're right. This seems to be a pocketbook election anyway. But there are also some encouraging signs that the MSM is starting to wonder why McCain makes such little sense.