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The Iraq surge — one last point

I’d like to make a final point in my exchange with Rajiv Chandrasekaran about the success (or not) of the Iraq troop surge. My initial post is here. Rajiv’s response and my reply are here.

Rajiv and I agree that important political goals of the surge have not been achieved. But it may be worthwhile to consider why they weren’t.

Here is Max Boot’s take:

The “surge” of 2007-2008 reduced violence by 90 percent and set Iraq on track to become a functional democracy. Alas, President Obama did not show much commitment to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have kept American forces there past 2011. The result is that U.S. influence in Iraq has plummeted while Iranian influence has soared. Left to his own devices, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is acting in increasingly sectarian fashion that is alienating the Sunnis and allowing al-Qaeda in Iraq—virtually defeated by 2009—to spring back to life. In short, we have managed to squander many of the gains that U.S. troops fought so hard to achieve during the long, bloody years of war.

If Boot is right, is it fair to say the troop surge wasn’t a success because the hoped-for political gains ultimately were not achieved? Not in my opinion. It is more accurate, to say that the surge succeeded but many of its gains were squandered due to decisions made thereafter.

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