Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Next Surge

This seems about right to me, based on what I've been reading from and about the present situation in Iraq:

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

It's curious how the media props up the military commanders who are actually working on the ground in Iraq as authorities on the place when their words happen to merge into the media-approved narrative of that story, and ignores or pooh-poohs them otherwise.

That narrative arrives in the next graph:

The lack of political progress calls into question the core rationale behind the troop buildup President Bush announced in January, which was premised on the notion that improved security would create space for Iraqis to arrive at new power-sharing arrangements. And what if there is no such breakthrough by next summer? "If that doesn't happen," Odierno said, "we're going to have to review our strategy."

How does it "call it into question?" It seems to me rather to confirm it: The surge (along with other, tangentially related developments) is giving the Iraqi government the breathing space it would need to do what it needs to do. It is doing exactly what the WaPo itself says (in the rest of that sentence) it was meant to do: "create space."

Whether the Iraqi government chooses to do that, or can do that without losing its factional support, is a matter of Iraqi society and politics, not U.S. military strategy.

And how is that graph not "editorializing" instead of "reporting?"

Somehow, the U.S. -- by which I mean the fraction of us that still are somehow invested in this war, either by participation or responsibility or a will to see it through to a good outcome -- and the Iraqis who want progress for themselves will have to work around the government for now, and pull it along in their wake. This could be done. It would be a surge of a different order.