Iraq war myths — Rajiv Chandrasekaran responds

Yesterday, I disagreed with Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s claim that it’s a “myth” that “the troop surge succeeded” in Iraq. Rajiv has done me the favor of commenting, on Power Line, about my post. I thank him for doing so.

Here is Rajiv’s comment:

Paul, the surge also had *political* goals.

“The Government of Iraq commits to:
Reform its cabinet to provide even-handed service delivery.
Act on promised reconciliation initiatives (oil law, de-Baathification law, Provincial elections).
Give Coalition and ISF authority to pursue ALL extremists.
All Iraqi leaders support reconciliation.
Moderate coalition emerges as strong base of support for unity government.”

Not my words. That was what the White House issued in Jan. 2007 when Bush announced the surge. Hard to look at Iraq today and say much of that has been accomplished in the way the WH intended.

I haven’t disputed that, as with most historic military undertakings, there were political goals associated with the surge. Nor do I deny that some of these political goals haven’t been met.

The point I tried to make is that the surge produced major accomplishments that are sufficient for it to be deemed a success. Indeed, I have trouble understanding how an essentially military undertaking that brought Iraq back from the brink of civil war, massively decreased violence, and dealt a severe blow to al Qaeda can be deemed a non-success merely because, for example, service delivery hasn’t become even-handed and not all Iraqi leaders support reconciliation.

If Rajiv had said it’s a myth that the surge met all of its stated goals, I would have agreed (although I would have questioned whether anyone believes this “myth”). Similarly, if he had said that some important political goals were not realized, I would have had no problem.

But, perhaps owing to the Post’s “Five Myths About” format, he made a more contentious claim — on a very significant and emotionally charged question — that I don’t think can be sustained. In my view, an operation that delivers huge benefits and few disadvantages is a success under any fair accounting.

I close by again thanking Rajiv for commenting on my post.

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