The Inevitable Failure of the Surge

The right has been smug the last few months, as the troop surge in Iraq brought violence in the country down to terrible, rather than apocalyptic levels. "See! We were right all along!" they said, as they pushed the surge's architect, John McCain, to the GOP nomination. "Iraq is going to be all ponies and oil! Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!"

Those of us who've actually been watching what's going on in Iraq these last five years held our tongues, for the most part, other than to occasionally point out that while violence was down a bit, nothing much was actually getting done in terms of stabilizing the Iraqi government. The surge was working in no small part because Sunni militias were willing to buy into the process and work with American and Iraqi government forces, or at the very least, not work against them.

But given that the Iraqi government, such as it is, is still dominated by the Shi'a, and given that there isn't really a functional Iraqi government, and given that the U.S. is getting ready to pull some of our troops out...well, one didn't have to be a very serious foreign policy expert to realize that our success in Iraq was destined to be short-lived:
A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.

Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr's Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr's followers that they'll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.

The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr's Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq, and there were fears that the confrontation that's erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.

Now, this incident might be the start of the great unraveling, or it might happen a bit later. Things may get back under control in the short-term, although it's entirely possible that they won't:
As the troop presence has shifted, so has the violence. For the first time since January, a majority of U.S. troops were killed in Baghdad, not in outlying northern provinces. Indeed, the U.S. military reached the death of its 4,000th soldier in Iraq on Sunday, when four U.S. soldiers were killed in southern Baghdad.

So far, this month, 27 soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Of those, 16, or 59 percent, died in Baghdad. In January, 25 percent of U.S. deaths happened in Baghdad, or 10 of 40.

Civilian casualties in Baghdad are also on the rise, according to a McClatchy count. After a record low through November, when at least 76 people were killed and 306 were injured, the deaths began to rise. In December, it crept up to 88 people killed, in January 100 and in February 172. As of March 24, at least 149 people were killed and 448 were injured.

Let's reiterate: 149 people have been killed in Baghdad alone this month. And in our record-low, the surge is awesome! month, 76 people were killed there.

That's not success, and it's nothing we can build around long-term. That's just a lesser degree of failure.

Now, because failure defines the Bush-McCain strategy in Iraq, we're going back to our previous catastrophic level of failure. And just in time for the general election. I'm sure that it won't matter, though. All the very serious people know the surge has worked perfectly. They certainly won't let facts get in the way of the truth.

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