Back in January, I argued that the Bush "surge strategy" was doomed to failure unless buttressed by active efforts to find a political solution to the Iraq crisis. This week’s Congressional testimony by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to the country, has failed to prove otherwise.
(There was surprisingly nothing of substance in the Ambassador Crocker’s testimony, an unusually empty-worded and boring — even by diplomatic standards — recital. The only memorable line has been Crocker’s description of Iraq as "a traumatized society", a nice euphemism for more appropriate "failed state.")
Embellished by 13 slides, General Petraeus’ oral presentation was better in style, but hardly on substance. I leave it to experts to debate whether General’s data do prove that the surge has made Iraq "safer." But I was stunned by his logic: the "surge" (that is, the addition of 30,000 troops) has allegedly reduced "violence" to the levels of the summer of 2006.
Think about it for a moment: not to the zero violence (and we supposedly have liberated the Iraqis from a brutal dictator) and not even to the pre-war violence, but to the levels of the brutal, violent, bloody 2006.
Taking this 2006 level of violence as a benchmark and citing "improvement in security", Petraeus now proposes a troop reduction to their pre-"surge" level. According to his plan, by the summer of 2008, the 2006 level of violence will be maintained not by 160,000, but, rather, by 130,000 troops contingent. In other words, in 2008 we will be again where we were in 2006 — with the same troops level and with the same level of violence.
Is this "progress"? Is it something worth calling "strategy"?
The absurdity of the "surge strategy" can be summarized in one line from Petraeus’ talk:
"Political progress will take place only if sufficient security exist."
Dead wrong. Sufficient security in Iraq — as in any other troubled spot on Earth — can be established only after sufficient political progress having taken place. No testimonies — including tonight’s televised address by President Bush — can change this simple fact.