Monday, April 09, 2007

The Surge: Successful When It Is, and Even When It's Not

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The Heretik: "The good news is no matter what anyone does (or doesn’t do), the surge is working."

Captain Ed writes:

Moqtada al-Sadr has decided to finally acknowledge that the surge strategy in Baghdad will undermine the basis of his power in Iraq, and has ordered the Mahdi Army to resist American and Iraqi forces trying to put him out of business. In a missive to his forces today, Sadr told his minions to focus their attacks on American forces where possible in order to keep from losing all political standing in Iraq[.]

The last part of that sentence, of course -- "in order to keep from losing all political standing in Iraq" -- is Ed's unsourced speculation on al-Sadr's motives. It's all part of the right's "The surge is successful no matter what happens" campaign.

Remember now; if the Mahdi Army lies low, then the Surge is working. If the Mahdi Army fights back, then the Surge is working. If the Mahdi Army has already dissolved, the Surge is working. If Sadr cooperates, the Surge is working. If he runs, the Surge is working. If he orders attacks, the Surge is working.

It's magical, this Surge; no matter what happens, the evidence demonstrates that the Surge is working. It can't fail! Any behavior taken by anyone in Iraq is a positive by-product of the Surge. I mean, sure, the Surge hasn't dented American casualty rates or Iraqi casualty rates for the country as a whole, but that also is evidence that it's working; the enemy is clearly desperate, which is why he's attacking us.

Here are a couple more examples of this "Heads, we're winning; tails, they're losing" phenomenon:


Moqtoda al-Sadr has panicked in what must be the the pending destruction of his quasi-military power base. He has ordered his militia to fight back against the US -- basically declaring war on us and the Iraqi government. Which is really all we needed to eliminate the Shiia death squads and Iranian backed fanatics.
Interestingly this report does not address whether Sadr is still hold [sic] up in Iran - where he ran to when the US started shifting forces towards Baghdad and Anbar for the Surge. Sadr’s people have been uncovered running death squads at the top levels of the Iraqi government. So there is no love lost for the man who possibly ordered other Iraqis killed. Sadr is clearly seeing his one true strength being dismantled, and is now panicking. A good sign the Surge is working.

Here, Strata manages to include, in one post, both Sadr's move to Iran and his surfacing to order the Mahdi Army to fight U.S. forces, as signs of success for the Surge.

And here's Jules Crittenden:

NYT is forced to acknowledge progress in the surge. Grudgingly.

Meanwhile, al-Sadr breaks cover. Well, he orders his people to. As far as we now [sic], Moqtada’s lying low in Iran.

Sheik Salah al-Ubaidi, a close aide to Sadr, said from Najaf … “There is a 65 percent possibility that Moqtada Sadr will come to the demonstration.”

That means there is a 45 percent chance he’ll keep his turbaned ass safely in Iran. But he wants his people to fight the Americans. Or maybe, his Iranian hosts want him to. This is good. It will make it easier to kill them. Glass, half-full and filling!

Jim Henley suggests that, before we start arguing that al-Sadr's order to attack U.S. troops signals success or failure for The Surge, we should first be sure that al-Sadr has, in fact, issued such an order:

Clearly, the fact that, as the AP headline reads, “al-Sadr calls for attacks on U.S. troops,” can be proof positive that The SurgeTM is working or not working. But it would be nice if we at least had evidence that al-Sadr had called for attacks on US troops. In Saad Abdul Kadir’s article we have no such thing.

Kadir quotes two direct passages from the message attributed to al-Sadr. First,

“You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don’t walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy.”


“God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them — not against the sons of Iraq,” the statement said, in an apparent reference to clashes between al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army fighters and Iraqi troops in Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. “You have to protect and build Iraq.”

The first clearly urges Iraq’s security forces to stop cooperating with US and Coalition troops and officials. The second clearly insists that Mahdists stop attacking Iraqi security forces, and to oppose the occupation somehow or other. What it doesn’t do is explicitly tell militia members to attack coalition troops. It tells them to “be patient” and to “unify your efforts” and to “protect and build Iraq.” On balance, it sounds like telling them to avoid violence entirely.

This too can be adduced as evidence that The SurgeTM is working or not working. But it’s not what the headline says it is. Either the passages that Kadir quotes are the most elliptical battle cry ever, or they’re not a battle cry at all, or Kadir/AP left out more explicit passages from the Sadr statement, which would be very sloppy journalism. I’ll grant you we’ve had plenty of that in the last five years, but shouldn’t random chance at least lead to the occasional well-supported piece?

Cross-posted at Shakesville.

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