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Debunking The Myth Of The “Troop Surge”

Everybody’s talking about the surge…is it succeeding…i s it a failure…will it allow the Iraqi government to turn the corner?

Some Democrats have been willing to acknowledge that the additional 30,000 troops has had a positive impact…which has led other Democrats to accuse them of capitulation . Simultaneous ly, these seemingly favorable remarks have also led some within the GOP to conclude that the President’s persistence is paying off and that the Democrats are finally realizing that victory is achievable.

Lost in the dialogue is an important reality…one that requires little more than the appropriate comparisons… comparisons that the President and his supporters have wisely avoided…comp arisons that the Democrats have been remiss to expose.

My thoughts on the subject were crystallized by a comment from a reader. The comment came in response to a posting which discussed a recent survey on the ability of the surge to succeed. The experts consulted overwhelming ly concluded that the surge would not succeed…and the reader disagreed…of fering the following closing statement.

Like it or not, the surge is working, just ask Hillary or any Democrat (in private of course).

Victory or defeat, you decide.

In reading the comment, I realized that the Bush administrati on has succeeded in framing the discussion of the surge to its advantage. Let me explain. I’ve previously argued that the notion of defeat is the one thing which prevents Americans from demanding an immediate end to the war. The polling suggests that while a large majority of voters feel the war has been mismanaged…a nd while there is a majority consensus that a withdrawal timeline should be established… a strong majority seem to be struggling with the notion of losing…and that mindset is the very point upon which the Bush administrati on framing is focused.

Clearly, that is a powerful force for the Democrats to overcome…and each time a Democrat affirms the success of the surge, they reinforce the hopes of those voters who do not want to accept defeat. I contend that the Democrats need to change the way they discuss the surge and they need some plausible examples to make their point.

Here’s what I would suggest. As long as the surge is characterize d in traditional terms as a military offensive, the results will continue to be viewed in terms of victory or defeat. To change that dynamic, the Democrats need to frame it differently.

I contend the surge should be portrayed as comparable to increasing the number of police officers in a large city in order to reduce a troubling crime rate. In that model, the 30,000 additional troops is approximatel y a 22 percent increase in police officers.

Clearly, most Americans would understand this line of reasoning and in presenting the surge in this manner, it then allows the Democrats to pivot to the crucial message…the one that tells voters that crime prevention is a persistent and ongoing battle…it isn’t a war that is won; it is simply the means to manage and deter the inherent potential for crime that will always exist.

As such, the struggle in Iraq is predicated upon a similar situation. More troops will deter the inherent potential for sectarian violence and insurgent activity…so long as the troops remain. However, a surge isn’t a means to victory; it is a management strategy. Unfortunatel y, it cannot end until such time as the Iraqi government puts in place the means to self-manage the policing of their society.

Further explanation is needed to complete the framing. If one looks at the city of Chicago and its long period of crime and corruption, one begins to see the task at hand in Iraq. Not only is there a large “criminal” element in the Iraqi population at large; there is at a minimum a void in the Iraqi leadership…a nd at worst, they may well be complicit in fostering the violence and the corruption. Evidence suggests the latter is more likely.

In other words, we are no longer engaged in a military conflict; we are attempting to build a civil society through the insertion of an occupying force. The problem with that scenario is that it is divorced from the realities that exist within both the civilian population and the political leadership. Iraq not only has the equivalent of the rampant organized crime gangs that plagued Chicago; it also has a similarly corrupt government that isn’t inclined to extinguish the gang warfare.

Lastly, the history of Chicago informs us that change occurred when the will of the people of Chicago mandated that change…a process that wasn’t achieved in short order…a process that is most accurately viewed as generational shift; not a function of a surge mentality. In fact, one could argue that the addition of more police officers during Chicago’s dark days would have simply given the combatants more wherewithal to prosecute their objectives. The situation simply lacked the innate institutiona l means for reform.

Iraq is no different…an d while throwing 30,000 honest officers into the equation may limit the wheeling and dealing of those intent on the acquisition of power and profit…the society lacks the ability and the initiative to embrace the proposed social and political shifts.

Taking a current example…the city of Baltimore has already seen 200 murders this year. Using the surge mentality, the city could decide to increase the number of police officers in hopes of reducing this alarming trend…but the dynamics that created the trend in the first place must be eliminated in order to achieve sustainable improvement. Reality tells us such an endeavor will take a long time (see Chicago or any other city that confronted such a dilemma)…and it involves more than expanding the ranks of the police force. Undoubtedly, the city has issues with poverty, drugs, education, gangs, race, and any host of other factors that can be expected to precipitate such a decline.

Now imagine a similar situation in a nation that completely lacks the long standing governmental structure found here in the United States. We have the benefit of a stabilizing force that cannot be underestimat ed and yet we still encounter situations like Chicago in the early 20th century and Baltimore in the here and now. Iraq has none of that to bring to bear on the situation.

By providing the above argument to establish the magnitude of the tasks facing Iraq, the final piece of the rationale can be introduced…a nd it is best done through the asking of one essential question…”If another nation had intervened in Chicago or one chose to intervene in Baltimore now, how would the inhabitants of either city react and what response could we expect from the vast majority of Americans?”

I think the answer is obvious but I’ll provide an example to illustrate my point. The European Union recently implored the governor of the state of Texas to reconsider the state’s intention to execute a convicted criminal…and to place a moratorium on capital punishment. Governor Perry’s office offered the following response.

The governor’s spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement that “230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determi nation.

“Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens,” Black said. “While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.”

Suffice it to say that we would be fooling ourselves to presume that the same sentiment doesn’t exist in Iraq. In fact, the recent remarks of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in response to U.S. criticism of the lack of political progress, highlight the degree to which self-determi nation will remain an obstacle to our efforts.

The Democrats would do well to remind voters of the position held by George Bush prior to the 2000 election. At that time, candidate Bush rejected the notion of nation building. Let’s give the President his due…his position on nation building was right before he was elected to the presidency. Unfortunatel y, one would be hard pressed to offer the same assessment of his track record since he became the sitting president.

U.S. voters need to understand that the United States is no longer engaged in a war in Iraq…that ended in short order with the toppling of the Hussein regime. Our troops successfully completed their mission long ago. When the Bush administrati on uses the words of war…words like “troop surge”…to discuss our failed effort at nation building, it is the responsibili ty of Democrats to firmly and fiercely rebut this foolish fairy tale.

Its time voters knew the truth…we won the war…our presence in Iraq is no longer a question of victory or defeat…the only outstanding decision is the one confronting the people of Iraq…”Are they ready to begin the difficult task of building a nation?”

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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5 Responses to “Debunking The Myth Of The “Troop Surge””

  1. Here’s what I would suggest. As long as the surge is characterize d in traditional terms as a military offensive, the results will continue to be viewed in terms of victory or defeat. To change that dynamic, the Democrats need to frame it differently.

    “A rose, called by any other name, is still a rose.” So is surrender.

    I contend the surge should be portrayed as comparable to increasing the number of police officers in a large city in order to reduce a troubling crime rate. In that model, the 30,000 additional troops is approximatel y a 22 percent increase in police officers.

    It’s a BS comparison.

    Lastly, the history of Chicago informs us that change occurred when the will of the people of Chicago mandated that change…a process that wasn’t achieved in short order…a process that is most accurately viewed as generational shift; not a function of a surge mentality. In fact, one could argue that the addition of more police officers during Chicago’s dark days would have simply given the combatants more wherewithal to prosecute their objectives.

    You are correct in regards to the fact that the people of Chicago, after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (and this is what I assume you’re talking about), did finally force a change. But only up to a point. Even though Prohibition was gone, the mob (the Outfit) never went away (and actually got worse, just less noisy about it), and neither did the character of the Chicago politicians  (only the names changed). The problems and the political corruption don’t go away, they just moved to new neighborhood s.

  2. SteveIL,

    Since you choose to use the term surrender, I have two questions for you.

    Who is it we would be surrendering to?

    If we don’t “surrender”, who is it we will be defeating?

    You see, we can’t “win” until such time as the Iraqi people decide they want to have a united country with a functional plan.

    You haven’t a clue how that is going to be achieved and the notion that we’re going to accomplish that through a troop surge is ludicrous…an d you know as much.

    Who are we fighting for? The Iraqi’s? If they’re fighting each other, which side are we on? You can’t even define what victory would look like because the Iraqi’s can’t make any decisions. You want to hold there hand until they reach a consensus, head on over. I suspect they’ll give you the same cold shoulder the Governor of Texas gave the EU.

    Frankly, you and the rest of the war apologists support democratic values when they are convenient; other times you’re more than willing to impose your version of it regardless of a willing recipient.

    I’ll ask you again, who are we going to defeat and who is going to thank us for doing as much. The absence of a good answer is an answer…the Iraqi’s need to figure out what they want to do.

    Good luck shoving you’re idea of what they ought to do down their throats. However, why don’t you and those who think its going to work head to Iraq and relieve our soldiers from a task that can’t be won. I’d pay good money to see you and yours beating your heads against a brick wall while telling us folks at home that you’re winning…and I’ll be the first to remind you that you can’t surrender when you finally grow tired of spinning your weary wheels.

    Regards,

    Daniel

    P.S. You think it’s a rose…I haven’t agreed that it is a rose…I don’t even think its a flower…you’r e the one selling flowers!

    The only thing that’s B.S. is your circular argument.

  3. I ask again.

    Where is there any proof that the Iraqis want an united Iraq?

  4. Christopher,

    I couldn’t agree more…I’m simply saying our presence isn’t going to answer that question. The Iraqi’s need to decide what’s next if what’s next is going to have any chance of succeeding.

    I would equate our ongoing presence to a guy sitting in his car waiting for his date to come out of the house…only problem being that the guy never made the call to inquire if the young lady was willing to go on a date.

    Essentially, we can’t even discern what a victory would be so why does leaving have to be framed as defeat?

    I think we have to separate the issues. There is the issue of fighting terrorism (we don’t want Iraq to become the new Afghanistan) …but that can be done much differently than with this huge force and this ongoing occupation.

    The other issue is what is Iraq going to do to create a government (nation building)…an d that is a proposition I doubt we can direct…short of staying for decades…and even that presupposes that the Iraqi’s will someday buy into our view of democracy (not likely IMO).

    Once we separate the issues, it’s easier to see the possible choices and the potential solutions. The bottom line is that our current strategy is unlikely to solve either.

    The separation of issues also makes it easier to avoid this irrational fear of defeat. We don’t lose by changing strategies…a nd having less troops or very few troops in Iraq doesn’t equate with surrender…es pecially since we can’t even define victory. Anything we can do to help deconstruct the GOP’s straw man argument will allow more voters to quit riding the fence.

    Voters need to be asking themselves a different set of questions than those being supplied by the Bush administrati on…and the Democrats need to provide them with those questions.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  5. All the “surge” is doing is temporarily pacifying certain areas. The second we start withdrawing, the violence will start back up. Our idea of “victory” is not the same as the Iraqi’s. And really, it never was any of our business in the first place.

    JMJ

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