Archive for December 30th, 2007

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Who Takes Credit For The “Surge”?

December 30, 2007

This entry was something that I’ve been considering for some time, but today I’ve decided to post something due to the inspiration that hit me when I saw the news that the Sunday Telegraph had picked their person of the year: General Petraeus: man with a message of hope

The decision seemed to be based on the opinion that the “surge” has been relatively successful, and that Petraeus’ leadership and poise in this against-all-odds scenario was instrumental in bringing Iraq back from the brink of disaster:

But the reason for picking Petraeus is simple. Iraq, whatever the current crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, remains the West’s biggest foreign policy challenge of this decade, and if he can halt its slide into all-out anarchy, Gen Petraeus may save more than Iraqi lives.

A failed Iraq would not just be a second Vietnam, nor would it just be America’s problem.

It would be a symbolic victory for al-Qaeda, a safe haven for jihadists to plot future September 11s and July 7s, and a battleground for a Shia-Sunni struggle that could draw in the entire Middle East. Our future peace and prosperity depend, in part, on fixing this mess. And, a year ago, few had much hope.

While we could debate how accurate or significant that all is, I think that the most fundamental element missing here lies in the fact that Petraeus, as great as he is, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be doing what he’s doing without the series of events that led to his ascendancy into command over the operation, or even the crafting of the “surge” plan itself.

So who really can take credit?  Bush?  The Republicans?  The Senate?  The AEI?  Or, as I’m about the make the case, the American people?

While it’s easy to take a look to powers that be who ultimately confirmed Petraeus or the think-tankers that came up with the “new way forward”, most people forget what forced the implementation of the whole change in strategy in the first place:  the results of the November 2006 elections.

Indeed, one might cringe at the thought of a situation where Rumsfeld is still Defense Secretary and a continuation of the status quo in Iraq, but that is quite possibly where we’d be if it weren’t for the Democrat’s landslide victory.  Just look at the chronology:

  • Nov. 7, 2006 Democratic Party captures the House of Representatives and Senate. 
  • Nov. 8, 2006 Rumsfeld resigns
  • Nov. 9, 2006 Heritage Foundation conference “The New Way Forward: Refocusing the Conservative Agenda”
  • Dec. 11-14 2006 Bush meets with State Dept. advisers, Iraqi experts, the Joint Chiefs to gather info for the “new way forward”.
  • Dec. 14, 2006 AEI announces the release of a report that will call for a “sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad”, releasing their final report Jan 5.
  • Jan. 5, 2007 Announcements of more shakeups in Bush administration personnel, including John Negroponte, Zalmay Khalilzad, Harriet Miers, and Gen. George Casey
  • Jan. 23, 2007 State of the Union address, outlining the plan to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

It’s unconscionable that the Bush administration would decide to make a policy change on Iraq based not on the situation in Baghdad, but on the political ramifications that a “thumpin'” (as he put it) in Washington had dealt them, but that appears to be exactly what happened.  Anyone can speculate how many additional lives could have been spared had Bush not been so stubborn.

So, before anyone begins to give praise to anyone with regards to any relative turnaround of the situation in Iraq, just remember that a policy change had been an option since early in the war, and only the collective actions of the American people finally prompted that change.  In my opinion, if there’s anyone to thank, it would be the people who voted Democrat in 2006.

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