By Michael J. Totten
You can be forgiven if you thought the United States military’s “surge” in Iraq has failed. At least you’ll be forgiven by me. I quietly assumed some time ago, before I had ever even heard of the surge, that the U.S. is going to lose this war in Iraq because the American public doesn’t have the will to stick out a grinding insurgency that might not ever be winnable. I’m not saying it isn’t winnable. I really don’t know. How could I possibly know? But we live in a democracy with civilian control of the military. If Americans want to give up — it’s over.
But the surge is only just now beginning.
Two weeks ago Dave Kilcullen, Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General Petraeus, said the following to Austin Bay:
I know some people in the media are already starting to sort of write off the “surge” and say ‘Hey, hang on: we’ve been going since January, we haven’t seen a massive turnaround; it mustn’t be working’. What we’ve been doing to date is putting forces into position. We haven’t actually started what I would call the “surge” yet. All we’ve been doing is building up forces and trying to secure the population. And what I would say to people who say that it’s already failed is “watch this space”. Because you’re going to see, in fairly short order, some changes in the way we’re operating that will make what’s been happening over the past few months look like what it is—just a preliminary build up.
That was two weeks ago. Between then and now, the surge finally started. Only just now has it finally started. It can’t yet have failed.
Go over to the Small Wars Journal where Kilcullen describes what the surge strategy is.
And be sure to read Michael Yon’s dispatch from Baqubah, if you haven’t already, where he describes Arrowhead Ripper in person, which is the opening shot in this campaign.
This is our last chance to avert a total catastrophe. American public opinion is not at all likely to tolerate any further adventures if this doesn’t work. But the war isn’t over until it is over, and it’s probably best not to say the surge failed when it only just started a week ago.