Boot the Surge

July 27, 2008

One of the most-marvelous and near-enigmatic of military operations in the Iraqi war was the famous “surge,” — Decider George’s answer to the fratricide-like butchery shop he’d created with his invasion and subsequent dumb-ass, greed-obsessive policies.

In January 2007, he ordered a big chunk of US GIs gushed into certain parts of Iraq for a short-shot, hit-’em-hard maneuver aimed at reducing the killing between Iraqis.
Coupled onto a chain of half-dozen interwoven events and situations over a near-two year period, the surge most likely helped calm the ferocious Iraqi countryside a little bit — but direct results of Decider George’s up-tick of boots on-the-ground-decision are so ambiguous the operation comes off now as some sort of mysterious, near-iconic military miracle.
Even use of the actual word ‘surge‘ to indicate rapid increases, i.e., ‘gas prices surge,’ ‘milk prices surge,’ and so forth, has popped up in newspaper headlines, indicating there’s a public that much-so grasps the significance of its meaning.

And the military-term use of “surge” and its implications has become political football.

Barack Obama, fresh from a strange, much-glorious trip across the known universe, seems to have supported the “surge” as he told Tom Brokaw Sunday morning on Meet the Press:

  • “If we want to look at the question of judgment, which is the one that John McCain makes, John McCain essential focus has been on the tactical issue of sending more troops.
    He’s made his entire approach to foreign policy rest on that support of Bush’s decision to send more troops in.
    But we can have a whole range of arguments about bad decisions — the decision to go into Iraq in the first place and whether that was a good strategic decision.”

No matter the conclusion: Iraq is still a crazy place.
In a Sunni town south of Baghdad, seven Shiite pilgrims were ambushed and killed Sunday while enroute to a local shrine.
The incident revealed a tear in the fabled fabric of the so-called “surge.”
One of the ingredients figured in the reduction of overall violence the past few months has been the Awakening movement, whose members are mostly Sunni Arabs, former insurgents/fighters for al-Qaeda or members of criminal gangs, now paid about $300 a month by the US to help keep the peace.
And like a kind of indigenous mercenaries, they want more money.
These are the same guys Jackboot John McCain gets confused about with the US GI surge, then again maybe he’s not, but yet…

And we used “was” as to describe Decider George’s so-called “surge.”
Supposedly the operation is over, now in the past, although more troops are in Iraq than were before the surge started last year.
Voice of America checked the numbers this week:

  • Before the surge, there were about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
    Now the Pentagon says there are 148,000. That’s a substantial increase, more than 12 percent. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman was asked to explain.
    “We’ve always said that we know there are certain capabilities that the United States military is going to have to continue to provide until the Iraqis can establish their own organic ability to do those things – medical, logistics, maintenance, air support,” he responded.

    But there are 16,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq than before the surge. The Pentagon says some of the other 6,000 extra U.S. troops are in the process of taking over for departing troops, so the overall number should go down by a few thousand in the coming weeks. But that still leaves at least a couple of thousand troops not exactly accounted for.

    The Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, says some may be leaving in the coming weeks, if their services are not needed by the Iraqis.
    In addition, he says U.S. commanders routinely request additional capabilities, such as bomb squads and intelligence units, which results in the deployment of small groups, or even individuals, which can add up over time.
    “The onesies and twosies become dozens, and the dozens become a few hundred, and a few hundred become a thousand sometimes,” Whitman said. “It’s just the way it does. Commanders have appetites for capabilities.”
    The number crunching this week over the post-surge U.S. troop numbers in Iraq, raises a question – when Iraqi leaders call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by 2010, are they talking about all the troops or just the combat troops?
    Or put another way, if the end of the surge left 16,000 troops behind, how many troops would a so-called complete U.S. withdrawal leave behind?

And what has the “surge” has really done?
Maybe the political-military move destroyed the US Army.
According to The American Conservative, the “surge” changed the face of the Army’s future, aided and abetted in escalating the disintegration of the Armed Forces.

  • In January 2007, the Bush administration announced a new strategy, a “surge” of troops into Iraq, following a well-circulated counterinsurgency template by American Enterprise Institute fellow Frederick Kagan and now-retired Army Gen. Jack Keane. There were assurances that more “boots on the ground” would lead to some stability in insurgent enclaves, an independent Iraqi national defense, and new legitimacy for the central government—at least enough to justify the phased withdrawal of combat brigades all but mandated by American voters in the 2006 midterm elections.

    Lawrence J. Korb, former Reagan defense official and retired Navy captain, is less diplomatic. “[Petraeus’s] main concern is his strategy,” he told TAC. “He is putting his interest, which is the battlefield, before the long-term interest of the Army and of the country.”

    There is little or no flexibility in today’s operational force, which leads many to question what would happen if the global war on terror really went global. At Slate, Fred Kaplan recently took inventory of the Army’s 43 combat brigades. He counted 16 currently in Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 in “dwell time” between deployments, one in Korea, one in transit, another doing global defense, one for “homeland defense,” and the rest unavailable.

    “The Army is in a zero-sum state: No more soldiers can be sent to Afghanistan without a one-for-one reduction in Iraq,” Kaplan wrote last month. He was responding to talk about sending more troops to Afghanistan to help beat back the Taliban—an idea the Pentagon swiftly kyboshed. (Some 3,200 Iraq-weathered Marines were sent this spring, bringing the total American forces in Afghanistan to 35,000.)

No matter what future President Obama holds, the US military has been purged in the surge.

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