Did the Surge Work? Who Can Say?

General David Petraeus testifies on the future course of the war in Iraq while appearing before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee and House Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.Ezra Klein and his summer intern have compiled ten expert responses to the question “How Important Was the Surge?” Not surprisingly, those from Center for American Progress answered “Not all that important” whereas Michael O’Hanlon and others who supported the Surge to begin with though it was “undoubtedly very important.” Or, as Marc Danziger puts it,

There’s a fairly wide range of opinions there, mostly based on the [preset position] + “but who can say?” view of historical analysis.

He also notes that, in war as in poker, signaling is very important and the mere fact of the United States doubling down on its bet was powerfully important. I agree.

The causes of the decline in violence were manifold; the Surge was among them. Certainly, though, the Surge hasn’t “worked” in the advertised sense. Thus far, at least, it hasn’t led to the political reconciliation for which we were providing breathing room. And most of what good has been accomplished has come from the bottom up and than the top down — and thus given more power to local tribal leaders and warlords, probably making some of our political goals harder to achieve.

The good news is that violence is down and the Iraqi military and security forces show signs of great progress. The bad news is that the Sunnis and Shia don’t seem to be coming together and the Kurds seem to be moving even further toward autonomy. Iraq has had two national elections in the post-Saddam era but pluralism and democracy are far from institutionalized.

The question, then, is whether the first can be sustained long enough to change the second. We could assemble ten times ten Iraqi experts and we won’t get an answer much better than “Who can say?”

FILED UNDER: General, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    You beat me to the punch, James. I was going to post on this subject this morning.

    As I read the opinions of the experts only Juan Cole completely discounts the surge. I note, too, that there’s some predisposition among the experts to restrict the definition of “the surge” only to the increase in troops without including the change in tactics that went along with the surge. I can’t help but wonder if the increased operational tempo of air support hasn’t been unduly discounted.

    If any of the experts had some really convincing evidence that the surge was completely and totally irrelevant to the improvement in conditions in Iraq over the last year, I’d have welcomed the info. I haven’t seen any and in its absence I think the reasonable hypothesis is that the surge was a factor among several that have contributed to the change. And that seems to be the consensus view.

  2. sam says:

    The question, then, is whether the first can be sustained long enough to change the second. We could assemble ten times ten Iraqi experts and we won’t get an answer much better than “Who can say?”

    Why did I immediately think of this piece of dialogue from The Magnificent Seven?

    Vin: Reminds me of that fellow back home that fell off a ten story building.
    Chris: What about him?
    Vin: Well, as he was falling people on each floor kept hearing him say, “So far, so good.” Tch… So far, so good!

  3. Hal says:

    I have to also point out – read it somewhere and can’t remember the link – that where we’re at now is pretty much the same levels of violence that we saw in 2005 – and we thought things were pretty bad in 2005. Things look good now only because in relative terms – i.e. things were pretty darn horrific when you had scores of bodies piling up like cord wood at the morgue on a daily basis. As we saw yesterday with 4 separate suicide bombings, things are pretty darn bad, still.

    I’m glad we got down to 2005 levels and that’s a good trend to see, but I really can’t believe that we’re falling for the psychological mirage of having things be so horrific that going back to merely deplorable and terrorizing is seen as a smashing victory.

    What a truly odd world we have created in the last 8 years. It’s like we just collectively chucked the rules out the door on 2001 and haven’t looked back since.

  4. Did the surge succeed in just sending more terrorists to Afghanistan? In other words, have we merely shifted the problem?

  5. Anderson says:

    read it somewhere and can’t remember the link

    Possibly you had this Yglesias post in mind.

    Saying the Surge “worked” begs the question, “worked at doing what?” What is our goal, and is it the kind of goal that can be achieved by an indefinite American occupation?

  6. Why should we look to political pundits with axes to grind for such assessments? Did anyone really think Mr. Klein approached this topic with an open mind?

  7. Hal says:

    Anderson, yep, it was MY. thanks for the link.

  8. Hal says:

    Did anyone really think Mr. Klein approached this topic with an open mind?

    Well, I don’t think you approach this topic with an open mind, either. But just because you have an axe to grind, yourself, doesn’t make your opinion useless to me nor does it make it pointless to have a discussion with you.

    The question has always been, what are the objective – or as objective as we can get – measurement of whether the surge worked? From the beginning, it was presented as the success of the surge would be political, not tactical. The tactical success of the surge, however, has now become the measurement of success of the surge.

    This seems quite insane, quite frankly. And given the 53 dead by suicide bombings in Iraq yesterday, I’m not even sure that the tactical success of the surge – in real terms, not simply relative – is something we should be patting ourselves on the back and congratulating ourselves over.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    If I wanted to know if the surge worked, I would ask the designer if he thought it worked. Ask Eisenhower if D Day worked. Ask MacArthur if Inchon worked. Ask Stormin Norman Swartzkopf if the end around worked. Why would you ask someone over here what worked or did not work over there?

  10. Michael says:

    The good news is that violence is down and the Iraqi military and security forces show signs of great progress.

    Anybody know what the ethnic breakout is for the Iraqi military and security forces?

  11. Anderson says:

    Did anyone really think Mr. Klein approached this topic with an open mind?

    I just want to second Hal on his important point: it’s childish to think that one should only draw upon “open minds,” or “unbiased sources,” in forming one’s opinions.

    Such minds and sources rarely exist, and if they do, they are rarely well-informed.

    In the real world, we are always dealing with interested parties, biased presentations, slanted evidence, and we have to pick through it as best we can.

    It’s okay to be skeptical of a far-out story in the New York Times, say, if you’re a conservative who distrusts the paper’s bias. But that is not a valid reason to automatically dismiss everything that the NYT reports.

    From my POV, even FoxNews isn’t to be automatically dismissed, although as an organization expressly founded as a Republican Party press release dissemination center, it’s certainly got to be treated carefully.

    Whatever the source, the point is always, does this person have a basis for knowing what he’s talking about? How does it compare with other sources? What’s this source’s track record?

    That’s one reason why I make a point of reading at least a couple of conservative blogs — to avoid being snowed by any liberal bias that might blind me to some counterpoint.

  12. Hal says:

    If I wanted to know if the surge worked, I would ask the designer if he thought it worked.

    Zelsdorf, if I show you a piece of art or a sculpture or even a building and say you can’t criticize it because only the architect who designed it can determine whether or not it was a success, you’d think me insane.

    Having objective measures of success means that we *all* can agree on whether or not there is a success. Following your advice, there is never a possibility for an agreement – you simply have dogma and delegation to authority without any verification.

  13. Hal says:

    Anderson – yep, if nothing else we’re all slaves to the confirmation bias, which pretty much rules our lives unless we are engaged in a constant struggle to mitigate it…

  14. Triumph says:

    Of course the surge worked. The only place where it failed was in shutting up anti-American liberals.

  15. sam says:

    Anybody know what the ethnic breakout is for the Iraqi military and security forces?

    The Christian Science Monitor published an article in 2006 entitled, Diversify Iraqi security forces. The article says:

    The security forces of the Iraqi state are disproportionately Shiite and Kurdish.

    link

    Indeed, one of the fundamental problems with the military and security forces is the difficulty of getting the Sunnis to participate.I haven’t heard that a lot of progress has been made on that front. Has anyone?

  16. Triumph says:

    Indeed, one of the fundamental problems with the military and security forces is the difficulty of getting the Sunnis to participate.I haven’t heard that a lot of progress has been made on that front. Has anyone?

    The US-financed paramilitary Awakening Councils, are where the armed Sunnis are.

    Thus, if we follow the B. Hussein-Malaki plan and pull out in 16 months we’ll have a US-armed paramilitary equipped to battlethe US-armed Iraqi government. It will kind of be like El Salvador in the ’80s, except we’ve created both sides!

    That’s exactly why we need to follow McCain’s 100-year plan for permanent occupation of Iraq.

  17. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Hal, those that can, do, those that cannot, criticize. If you were intellectually honest, you would admit to bias against the surge. However that not being the case. Critique away. Like the work of art you mentioned. If I fully understand the purpose or what the art work is trying to portray I may have room to criticize the art piece, however to criticise either because it does not meet what I consider art to be or cannot see what it is purported to represent is not valid criticism. The goal given the general in command of theater in Iraq is the measure of success. Not that of those who oppose the action to begin with. After all, for most the last years season, the New England Patriots were more successful than the New York Giants, yet they ended up 18 and 1. It was the one that counted.

  18. When I saw the title to this article, I started pondering over what the answer would be. I’m still stuck on the answer. Well as you said “Who can say”.

    Anyway, I seem to be fumbling around with how to write this comment. I just want to ask, what was our original goal of the surge? Was it political, nation security, Sunnis and Shia?

  19. rodney dill says:

    Whether someone says the surge worked or not will be predetermined by their political affiliation about 95% of the time.

  20. Tlaloc says:

    I strongly suspect that in 6 months or a year we’ll all be able to say whether the surge worked.

  21. Bithead says:

    So, the Democrats are almost to a man, includng Obama, claiming that the Surge didn’t work.

    So why, then, is Obama proposing another surge, this time in Afghanistan?

  22. Bandit says:

    AS far as the Dems are concerned the surge failed to meet their goal of defeat for the US.

  23. Triumph says:

    I strongly suspect that in 6 months or a year we’ll all be able to say whether the surge worked.

    I’ll take that and raise you three Friedmans!

  24. anjin-san says:

    Hal, those that can, do, those that cannot, criticize.

    We will bear that in mind the next time you slam Obama.

  25. Bob says:

    The original intent of the surge was to reduce the level of violence within Iraq and that would in turn lead to political reconciliation. On both of those goals I would argue the Surge has been a success. Levels of violence are down to 2003 levels (not 2005) and political reconciliation has occurred. Still the question remains “What constitutes success?”.

    Critics will maintain that violence does not equaled zero or some threshold and so it is not an unqualified success. Or put another way, an 80 percent reduction is good but not unqualified. Critics will maintain that political reconciliation is less apparrent (and less quantifiable) and lagged. Political progress, in Iraq or US, is always in the eye of the beholder. Either way, both critics and supporters of Surge will point to something to buttress their case. What is clear is the tenor and premise of the Surge argument is 180 degrees from December 2007 and the media coverage of Iraq is a thin shadow of what it was. I’d argue that is the clearest indicator of success.

  26. anjin-san says:

    So, the Democrats are almost to a man, includng Obama, claiming that the Surge didn’t work.

    Really? There are a lot of democrats out there. Can you document this?

  27. Bithead says:

    OK, Anjin… here’s your chance to shine;
    List Democrats who admit the surge is working, thereby saying Obama’s wrong about this.

  28. anjin-san says:

    Don’t dance bit, you are not that good at it. You made a flat statement. Can you back it up with facts? Put up or shut up…

  29. Hal says:

    The goal given the general in command of theater in Iraq is the measure of success. Not that of those who oppose the action to begin with. After all, for most the last years season, the New England Patriots were more successful than the New York Giants, yet they ended up 18 and 1. It was the one that counted.

    Okay, hopefully I can unpack this from the gratuitous insults, attacks and grammar issues.

    So, you’re saying that those who do things get to define success. Not sure if you agree with this, but civilians are in command of the military, not the military. This means that the policy makers get to define success, the military caries out the strategy to make that possible.

    WRT your second point, I completely agree. In fact, this is precisely my point. Think of it this way, Zel: “success in the surge” is like the NE Patriots ending the season with an 18:1 record. However, “not achieving political success” is equivalent to losing the super bowl.

    As you say, it’s the one that matters – the only test that counts.

    Thus, I think you inadvertently made my point.

  30. Hal says:

    Whether someone says the surge worked or not will be predetermined by their political affiliation about 95% of the time.

    So, Rodney, what’s your definition of success and did you define it before or after the fact?

  31. Bithead says:

    Don’t dance bit, you are not that good at it. You made a flat statement.

    I’m not backing down, here Hal. You refuse to answer my question and tell me I’m dancing?How’s that work? Put up or shut up, yourself.

    Let’s see if you can handle the question without imploding. I doubt it.

  32. Bithead says:

    (And yes, I recognizeI’m dealing with seperate poeple, here. I’m a nice guy, and I’m giving you a chance to shine as well. I doubt you’re up to it, but go ahead, prove me wrong.

  33. Hal says:

    I’m not backing down, here Hal.

    Dude, W.T.F.?

    I mean, I’m not even part of that conversation.

  34. sam says:

    List Democrats who admit the surge is working, thereby saying Obama’s wrong about this.

    There are some, as a simple search would have revealed:

    A Ranking Senate Democrat Concedes Surge Is Working

    By ELI LAKE, Staff Reporter of the Sun | August 9, 2007

    WASHINGTON — The no. 2 Democrat in the Senate — the assistant majority leader, Richard Durbin of Illinois — is conceding that the surge of American troops has led to military progress in Iraq.

    November 29, 2007, Politco.com

    Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), one of the leading anti-war voices in the House Democratic Caucus, is back from a trip to Iraq and he now says the “surge is working.”

  35. rodney dill says:

    Its not my definition of success that is the issue. Anyone that wants to weigh in seems to define success in a manner that supports their own political view point. Neither party wants to give the other any free claim to a ‘success’ or in being right about the surge.

  36. I keep waiting for the little girl to explain that there is no spoon surge. It is the next logical step in the progression.

  37. Hal says:

    Its not my definition of success that is the issue.

    That’s a rather odd way of looking at it. Clearly, the surge was done for a reason. If the surge was tactically successful, but didn’t achieve the strategic goals, how is pointing that out motivated purely by politics and subject to relativistic interpretation based on how I vote?

  38. Hal says:

    It is the next logical step in the progression.

    Hahahahaha. Good one. So, how is that advancing the discussion? Or are you just throwing things from the peanut gallery?

  39. anjin-san says:

    Bit you answered a question with a question. Thats what people do when they are talking thru their hats. Clearly, you cannot handle my question, and I asked first.

    As for “not backing down”, wow. I am sure that kind of tough talk might impress the paper boy.

    Clearly, you cannot support your statement, which is hardly anything new for you. You could not put up, so Shut up. End of discussion.

  40. rodney dill says:

    If the surge was tactically successful, but didn’t achieve the strategic goals….

    I made no such ascertion. Maybe you are mixing my comments up with others. My view is that people are seeing what they want to in the surge, and coaching their words in such a way that they give the other party no room in taking credit for doing something right. (this applies in both directions).

  41. Hal says:

    My view is that people are seeing what they want to in the surge, and coaching their words in such a way that they give the other party no room in taking credit for doing something right.

    Well, that’s what I’m trying to pin down. Do you think there are no objective measurements at all and that we only have subjective arguments? Surely, before the surge there were goals set out that we can see if they have been met.

    Certainly, the left does admit that the surge was a tactical success – if somewhat moderated by the fact that it only reduced violence to 2005 levels.

    So, if people say that it was a tactical success therefore it was a strategic success, wouldn’t those people be objectively wrong? And conversely, if people say it was a tactical success but the strategy hasn’t succeeded, wouldn’t those people be objectively right?

    Help me out here. It seems like your just kind of waving your hands, saying “a pox on all your houses”, which seems kind of like a cop out…

  42. Tlaloc says:

    Rodney:

    Anyone that wants to weigh in seems to define success in a manner that supports their own political view point.

    Could be, but it could also be that they based their political views about the surge based on the stated goals and its capacity to reach them.

    As with most of the last eight years one side has been pretty consistently right and one side has been pretty consistently wrong. That the wrong side still thinks they’re right only muddles the issue for them. Reality remains what it is.

  43. rodney dill says:

    As with most of the last eight years one side has been pretty consistently right and one side has been pretty consistently wrong. That the wrong side still thinks they’re right only muddles the issue for them. Reality remains what it is.
    Excellent, finally a statement that nearly everyone can agree with. 😉

  44. Bithead says:

    Bit you answered a question with a question

    Which directed you two to answer your own question. Go ahead, Anjin; Tell us; Which Democrats said Obama was wrong about the surge not working?

    Face it, Anjin, you can’t do it.
    TRanslation: Bit’s correct, your complaint not withstanding.

  45. anjin-san says:

    TRanslation: Bit’s correct, your complaint not withstanding.

    The actual translation is “Bit-head is making excuses again for his inability to support his arguments.

  46. Michael says:

    Tell us; Which Democrats said Obama was wrong about the surge not working?

    Well, Obama said the surge was a tactical success, does that count? That’s probably as close as you’re going to get to finding a Democrat to say the surge worked.

    As parallel threads here shows, nobody’s even nailed down a specific definition for what the surge was, let alone what it’s goals were.

    Rodney is right that people think the surge was a success or not based on their original opinion on whether it was a good idea or not. Unlike Rodney, however, I don’t think they are directly linked. Rather, your original opinion on the surge probably was based on what you thought were the objectives of the surge, and now the success or failure depends on what you believe those objectives were. Certainly Obama’s remarks seem to fall into this category.

  47. Hal says:

    nobody’s even nailed down a specific definition for what the surge was, let alone what it’s goals were.

    Indeed. It’s quite surreal to hear literally nothing on this front from those on the right, or from those of the titular center who feel that everyone is wrong.

    It’s like a magic wand that one can simply wave. Surely there are some references to the goals of the surge that were stated before hand (I’m searching myself). If not, then there really isn’t any argument at all because a strategy without any purpose or goal isn’t a strategy at all. It’s just a silly act put on for show. Surely no one believes that is the case, do they?

  48. Michael says:

    Indeed. It’s quite surreal to hear literally nothing on this front from those on the right, or from those of the titular center who feel that everyone is wrong.

    We’ve heard it from both sides. The problem is that, from the very beginning, the military goals set out for the surge were conflated with the political goals that were expected to result from it.

    By any logical definition, the surge was a success, because it accomplished the objectives it was supposed to, namely reducing violence. At the same time, the surge was justified by the promise of accomplishing political goals, which were not (and indeed, could not be) accomplished by the tactics or forces of the surge.
    promised outcome.

    So, I guess I would say that the surge was an unjustified success.

  49. rodney dill says:

    Surely there are some references to the goals of the surge that were stated before hand (I’m searching myself).

    Actually the Whitehouse had a fact sheet on the surge January 10, 2007, but certainly you would’ve investigated this yourself, or are you just feigning your indignation?

  50. Bithead says:

    Well, Obama said the surge was a tactical success, does that count? That’s probably as close as you’re going to get to finding a Democrat to say the surge worked.

    Indeed it is as close as we’ll get, Michael, and the answer is no, it won’t do.

  51. Hal says:

    are you just feigning your indignation?

    There really wasn’t any need to needle me like that, was there? I really have been doing a good faith search for some objective criteria in between crap I’m doing for my real job.

    But the thing that completely mystifies me is why on earth you didn’t actually provide a link to the fact sheet? I mean, is there some test of manliness on this site that the right hand side of the commenter aisle just simply refuses to provide links? Is it just to goad people and make them feel small or something?

    Geebus.

    Okay, putting in the correct google search based on the information from Dill’s comment I found this. Does this satisfy the general need for objective criteria on the goals of the surge?

  52. rodney dill says:

    Heh, I gave you more than enough information to find it, you already found one of the documents it points to. I’ve seen a lot of demands in this post for people to provide facts, (i.e. do the research for someone else). I’m just letting everyone do their own looking.

  53. rodney dill says:

    BTW it took me about 15 minutes to find it, and I will agree with you, Hal, that there isn’t a lot of definitive information on the surge available on the web, mostly a lot of opinion.

  54. Anderson says:

    Rodney, you’re so … sane. I find that uncanny in OTB threads. I’m almost tempted to ask you to cut it out.

    In related (to the post) news, the RAND folks suggest tossing the “war on terror”:

    Its report said that the use of military force by the United States or other countries should be reserved for quelling large, well-armed and well-organized insurgencies, and that American officials should stop using the term “war on terror” and replace it with “counterterrorism.”

    “Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism,” said Seth Jones, the lead author of the study and a Rand political scientist.

    Again, that just makes too much sense — I can’t believe I read it on the internet.

  55. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Hal, you said nobody defined what the surge was or what is was to accomplish. Really? I think there is a four star General in Iraq who may just disagree with you, but then you surely know more about the topic then he does after all to you he is General David Betray us. Small lesson, Hal. The Commander in Chief (the President) defines the mission. Ground commanders decide tactics needed to successfully accomplish the mission. Your opinion or criticism counts just about as much as your com padre anjin the lesser. Wrong in the beginning and wrong now. That what you get with modern miseducation.

  56. anjin-san says:

    One of the core facts of this discussion is, that like so many things involving the Bush administration and Iraq, what the phrase “the surge worked” means is pretty nebulous.

    Much like “victory” or “when conditions are right”. No one really seems to have a clear handle on a concise definition for these terms, certainly not the people who started the war.

    Another thing to keep in mind about the surge is that it is, even if successful, not a masterstroke of some sort.

    It is an attempt to remedy one of the many gross blunders Bush made early on, specifically not enough boots on the ground to stabilize the country once Saddam was deposed.

    It does seem clear that conditions in Iraq have improved, up to perhaps God awful sucky from mind-numbingly horrible. I have no doubt that additional combat resources have played a part.

    But to attribute improvements solely to the surge is a comic book oversimplification of a complex situation. And for McCain to say that the surge “led to” the Anbar Awakening is a bald-faced lie.

  57. Hal says:

    That what you get with modern miseducation.

    Whatever.

  58. Bithead says:

    WHatever.

    No, Hal, not “Whatever”. Zels has this one nailed, and you with it. The goals had already been well defined, long before the surge was even considered. THe surge wasn’t the goal, it was a tactic toward the already established goal.

    A short while ago we were hearing all about how Bush couldn’t admit his mistakes and as such didn’t have what it takes to be POTUS. At what point might we expect Obama to admit he blew it about the surge, and that it did work?

    (I’ve pretty much given up on the Hal and AnjinSan dancers ever doing so…)

  59. rodney dill says:

    Rodney, you’re so … sane.

    Crap, I’m doing something wrong then.

  60. Hal says:

    Zels has this one nailed, and you with it.

    Actually, he doesn’t. As he points out, the surge was a tactic and as has been exhaustively pointed out, even Obama agrees that the surge has been a tactical success. Yes, Petraeus gets to define the tactical success and nothing I said previously was anything different. The tactical goals of the surge, Bit, are not under debate.

    Now, if you both simply can’t tell the difference between tactics and strategy then there’s little point of discussion. But I’ll reiterate so you’ll hopefully understand my position clearly and won’t continue your bizarre arguing tactics: I agree that the surge was a tactical success. I doubt you’d find any democrats saying differently – rather some would argue that the tactical goals that it did, in fact, succeed in are rather paltry when compared in real terms, not just merely measured in relative terms to the horrific period of out and out ethnic cleansing during a civil war.

    What you refuse to see, apparently, is that there is the strategic goals that the tactics of the surge were designed to support. You can stop trying to “win” on whether the surge was a tactical success, Bit. That’s not the issue. Continue to argue it and do your superiority dance claiming victory, but you’re simply missing the point.

  61. anjin-san says:

    Hal and AnjinSan dancers

    Stealing my lines again? Ah, the life of a hack…

    🙂

  62. Grewgills says:

    The closest thing I was able to find to a pre-surge definition of success for the surge was here. Many of the stated goals are not very specific, but they are far more specific than any of the public speeches given that supposedly laid out what the ‘new way forward’ was supposed to do. Certainly changing the previous destructive and ineffective tactics was necessary and many of the changes were radical improvements over the previous tactics. Most of the violence reduction goals have made substantial progress, but the political goals have not, so the changes in tactics (of which the surge was a part) had mixed results as far as achieving their stated, if not so specific, goals. Boosters of the war and its architects tend to focus on the successes of the change in tactics (while ignoring what made a radical shift necessary) and those opposed to the war tend to focus on the failures on the political front and emphasize that without the necessary political progress no real long term solution is possible.

  63. I’ve quoted you and linked to you here.

  64. rodney dill says:

    You found it Grewgills, sorry you had to do ‘others’ research for them. The attached PDF had the most information was pretty good, but as this was the initial release, and was given to the media, it is pretty high level. Somehow I don’t believe that any more specific goals will be made available to the public anytime soon.

  65. Hal says:

    sorry you had to do ‘others’ research for them.

    No one would have had to go dumpster diving if you simply provided the link. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but geebus. You admit there’s a sh*t load of noise and barely a signal.

    Again, this must be some test of manhood with y’all on the right because it’s not as if we have jobs or anything. In the future, if you have a link can you just use it instead of making people jump through hoops? I mean, it’s silly. This is why we have the internet, after all.

    It’s just frickin’ weird.

  66. Bithead says:

    Actually, he doesn’t. As he points out, the surge was a tactic and as has been exhaustively pointed out, even Obama agrees that the surge has been a tactical success

    Yes… a success in moving us toward the stated, and long established goal. That’s the part he dare not admit. And that’s the whole point of this discussion. He simply can’t admit he’s wrong.

    Stealing my lines again? Ah, the life of a hack…

    It seemed appropriate to use your own phrasing, since it was a sure bet you’d take their meaning.

  67. Hal says:

    Yes… a success in moving us toward the stated, and long established goal.

    Bit, you’re now completely circular in your arguments.

    Again, a stunning performance.

  68. Michael says:

    Indeed it is as close as we’ll get, Michael, and the answer is no, it won’t do.

    Well, yeah, I knew that before I asked, it was rhetorical. You want a Democrat to say that the surge fulfilled what we were promised it would fulfill, but it didn’t. They’ll say it was a tactical success, but that as far as they can go while being honest.

    No, Hal, not “Whatever”. Zels has this one nailed, and you with it.

    Again I feel I should point out that, historically speaking, agreeing with Zelsdorf automatically makes you wrong.

    I’ve seen a lot of demands in this post for people to provide facts, (i.e. do the research for someone else). I’m just letting everyone do their own looking.

    That’s all well and good if you’re a teacher, but when having a discussion it’s an obstacle when you have to constantly independently verify someone else’s claim. Posting a link isn’t doing our research for us, it’s forcing us to duplicate your own research just so we all stay on the same page.

  69. rodney dill says:

    …must be some test of manhood…

    A rather sexist way of looking at it.

    if you have a link can you just use it instead of making people jump through hoops?

    It was my prerogative not to jump through the hoops of others who demand facts but are too busy formulating responses instead of fact researching. That last sentence is for everyone, not just targeted at you Hal.

  70. Hal says:

    Okay, now you’re just being a d*ck. Sorry, dude, but I don’t come here to sit at your feet as a pupil. You’re just playing a silly and rather childish domination game. If you feel that’s your duty her at OTB, then I’ll just have to keep that in mind when you descend from the pedestal and make us work for things.

    Seriously, dude. These kind of games are what I’d expect of Mannning, Dr. B and the insane Zelsdorf Ragshaft III. As Michael points out, the *only* thing you accomplish playing such games is make everyone do a lot of busy work just to keep up. This wonderful lesson of yours (which is, I guess, sifting through Google search results? Gee, I never would have learned that! Thanks!) just causes everyone to waste a lot of time for exactly zero gain.

    There was no “jumping through hoops” required from you. It was simply surrounding some text in a post with <a href=””>…</a> – heck you even could have just highlighted it and pressed the convenient button on the comment form.

    Really, this just comes off as completely weird.

  71. anjin-san says:

    It seemed appropriate to use your own phrasing, since it was a sure bet you’d take their meaning.

    Well, in the case, the meaning is that young bit is not very original, and he tends to copy off of the other kids papers…

  72. Bithead says:

    Well, yeah, I knew that before I asked, it was rhetorical. You want a Democrat to say that the surge fulfilled what we were promised it would fulfill, but it didn’t. They’ll say it was a tactical success, but that as far as they can go while being honest.

    No, they can go much farther than this, and if they’re being honest, they MUST in fact. However, “Honest Democrat” is always a contradiction in terms.

    As Michael points out, the *only* thing you accomplish playing such games is make everyone do a lot of busy work just to keep up.

    So does this mean that you’ll come up with responses to my posts other than demands for proof of eveything I say?

  73. Hal says:

    So does this mean that you’ll come up with responses to my posts other than demands for proof of eveything I say?

    I swear that if anyone in the psychological profession gets a hold of you, you will never leave the lab.

    Look. In Rodney’s case, we asked for information. He had this information readily available to him. He withheld it because he wanted to teach us a lesson. Further, he chided us (me in particular), implying that we weren’t being serious in doing our “homework”. This is just plain silly as it isn’t his job to school us on searching for information that he readily admitted was difficult to find because of the extremely low signal to noise ration.

    When I ask for information, it’s just part of the way things work that one gives it unless you’re just trying to be a d*ck or you think it’s your job to teach us how to google information.

    In your case, Bit, you simply don’t have the information. Because if you did, you’d certainly slam down a link and do a victory dance screaming “PWNED”. Certainly, in the extreme, someone can be disruptive to the process by asking for information which really is trivially obtained. But if you make wild claims, as you invariably do, you are going to be asked to back up those claims. And if you don’t, you’re simply being an incredible douche bag.

    What you’re doing is playing a very transparent game where you can’t come up with a shred of support of your argument, so you simply blow smoke by claiming that one should look up the support for your arguments rather than having you support your claims like normal humans understand that they are expected to do.

    Asking people to support their assertions is part of the normal process of argument and discussion. If you think it isn’t, then I strongly suggest that you do not go anywhere near anyone who has an interest in psychological research.

  74. Bithead says:

    I swear that if anyone in the psychological profession gets a hold of you, you will never leave the lab.

    Heh. Seems to me what you describe Dill doing here is exactly the transparent game you’ve been trying with ME, which is exactly why I’ve been calling you on it. Funny how when someone tries it with you, you scream like an overspun turbocharger.

    And of course you try to back your defense against my question with a set of unproven assumptions.

    And that’s fine. Just don’t figure it’s not being noted as such.

  75. Michael says:

    No, they can go much farther than this, and if they’re being honest, they MUST in fact.

    Oh? What claims then do you think you can honestly make about the success of the surge other than tactical?

    So does this mean that you’ll come up with responses to my posts other than demands for proof of eveything I say?

    There is a difference between asking for proof, and refusing to provide proof. In fact, they are polar opposites.

  76. Michael says:

    Seems to me what you describe Dill doing here is exactly the transparent game you’ve been trying with ME

    Then you seem wrong. Try it again.

  77. Hal says:

    Seems to me what you describe Dill doing here is exactly the transparent game you’ve been trying with ME

    Okay Bit, we’re now well into the “I know you are, but what am I” phase that all discussion with you seems to descend. Thanks for playing. Have a nice day.

  78. rodney dill says:

    Okay, now you’re just being a d*ck. Sorry, dude, but I don’t come here to sit at your feet as a pupil. You’re just playing a silly and rather childish domination game.

    Resorting to browbeating now? You’ll have to let me know how that works out for you.

    He withheld it because he wanted to teach us a lesson.

    I don’t care what Bithead says, I knew you were smart enough to figure it out.

  79. anjin-san says:

    One thing that jumps out at me reviewing the posts in this tread is how well the GOP’s Atwater/Rove tactics have filtered down to the minions.

    They can’t really run on Bush’s record or McCain’s platform, that road leads to an Obama landslide.

    So what do you do? Lots of things. Lie. Tell half-truths. When questioned, attack. Piss the opposition off, take them off of their game. Cloud the issue. Appeal to stupidity. Stay away from the issues, attack the opposition over non-issues and hope they will engage you on a field of your own choosing.

    To the Democrats, I suggest that we simply stop playing with the slow kids. Obviously Bush’s stupidity and overall mediocracy appeals to something deep inside of them. Why not just leave them to it? While we are here arguing with them, we might be doing something constructive.

    Rove has game, his strategy is a good one. Use pawns to tie up rooks.

  80. Bithead says:

    Okay Bit, we’re now well into the “I know you are, but what am I” phase that all discussion with you seems to descend.

    Translation: I’ve noticed my argument isn’t holding up. Time for me tobail out. Insult Bit, Blame Karl Rove for the whole thing.

    It’s almost time to bail on Dill, too, isn’t it?

  81. Bithead says:

    There is a difference between asking for proof, and refusing to provide proof.

    What I’m refusing is to play your game, and for the reasons Dill describes. That’s exactly why most of the tie I simply dump the thing back in your lap… where you have repeatedly demonstrated a total inability to handle it.

    So, along comes Dill, pointing your own demands back at you, and you start screaming with your brand of rightious indignation, rather like Al Sharpton in a Denny’s.

    All very predictable.

  82. Bithead says:

    Oh? What claims then do you think you can honestly make about the success of the surge other than tactical?

    Well, the number of provinces now being fully controlled by Iraqi forces leaps to mind. Certainly, unattainable pre-surge. Them taking ownership of the situation… wasn’t that one of the stated goals, even from a political standpoint?

    In the main, the Surge has undeniably had effects, psychological, and well as practical, on both the enemy and the people of Iraq. Based on these, the victory is already in hand. What was needed for a political solutino was to secure the region against people who would given the chance prevent that political solution. That being done, there is a sense of momentum now, toward the goal on both parts where there was none previously.

    And I suspect and suppose that the biggest problem that the Democrats have with all of this is that rather than the picture the Democrats were painting, of them heroically stopping a hopeless war, we have a picture of a Republican White House winning the war, despite their contunual roadblocks to victory… despite their actively seeking our defeat…and the Democrats trying to explain to angry voters why losing the war would have been better.

  83. Michael says:

    What I’m refusing is to play your game, and for the reasons Dill describes.

    It’s not a game, for the reasons I describe. When has “dumping it back in out lap” actually produced evidence to support your claims?

    where you have repeatedly demonstrated a total inability to handle it.

    I’m pretty sure that history shows otherwise.

    So, along comes Dill, pointing your own demands back at you, and you start screaming with your brand of rightious indignation, rather like Al Sharpton in a Denny’s.

    Oh wait, you quoted my post, but you’re not actually responding to me, are you?

  84. rodney dill says:

    This whole post has been turned into mating elephants. (1. done at a high level, 2. done with a great deal of stomping and trumpeting, 3. Probably take two years to see results.)

    All anyone had to do was type in the keywords I inadvertantly provided

    whitehouse factsheet january 10 2007

    and it would appear as the first google entry.

    I’m only doing this now as Grewgills did this AND provided the link (see Grewgills post). I don’t see that anyone actually went and looked at the link and associated docs/resources yet, at least not based on the responses. At least elephant sex has been somewhat entertaining.

  85. Michael says:

    All anyone had to do was type in the keywords I inadvertantly provided

    whitehouse factsheet january 10 2007

    and it would appear as the first google entry.

    Yes, but in the same post that you provided those keywords, you were already casting insults that Hal had not done that search already. He couldn’t very well have done the search on the keywords you provided _before_ you provided them. To his credit, he _did_ do a google search, and posted the link immediately after your post providing the keywords, long before you clarified which document you were referring to.

  86. anjin-san says:

    White House Factsheet

    Kind of a self-canceling phrase, coming from a group with a history of scrubbing their own website and editing official documents to suit political needs.

  87. rodney dill says:

    While there was a decided lack of much (visible) research by anyone prior to my posting aside from Hal’s reference that he didn’t find anything, I didn’t intend to imply that I was holding anyone accountable for not typing in my keywords before I actually provided them. (I actually didn’t intend to provide them as keywords at all, but I found after the fact by typing them in that they provided the link at the top of a Google search). Even after Grewgills gave the link I didn’t see much of a (visible) mad scramble to investigate it. (by anyone)

    Kind of a self-canceling phrase,

    Well that one is actually pretty funny, reminiscent of George Carlin.

  88. Bithead says:

    Oh wait, you quoted my post, but you’re not actually responding to me, are you?

    Thread scrable. My bad.
    I owe you a beer.

  89. Michael says:

    Thread scrable. My bad.
    I owe you a beer.

    I don’t drink beer, so just donate it to charity instead.

  90. Michael says:

    Better yet, just take a drink of it every time Hal says “Geebus”, it’ll become a new OTB drinking game.

  91. Hal says:

    All anyone had to do was type in the keywords I inadvertantly provided

    whitehouse factsheet january 10 2007

    and it would appear as the first google entry.

    Wow. So if you put in the exact phrase you’re looking for into google, it shows up? Blow me over with a whisper.

    Rodney, this is just pure bunk. I have no idea why I would have entered any of those terms into google when I was looking for objective measurements surge petraeus, etc. You’ll note that for your magic query to work – the one you think everyone should have been working hard to find – has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual issue we were trying to find.

    NOTHING.

    Yes, in retrospect, if you you know what you’re looking for, it’s really easy to find! Apparently you think we should have all just known that this information was there in Bush’s SOTU address! Boy are we just ignorant, lazy fools!

    Again, 1) you are being incredibly pedantic because you think that’s you’re role here, or 2) you’re being an incredible d*ck, or 3) you literally don’t understand why it’s an issue, which almost puts you Dr. B’s league.

    I was betting on #1, but after your comment which is again preaching from on high about how simple it would have been to find if you only entered int the right search phrase, I’m beginning to strongly suspect #3.

    I mean, next you’ll tell me if I have the right key a lock is easy to open! Or if I guess the right password, it’s easy to open someone’s account.

    Geebus.

  92. Michael says:

    Geebus.

    Hmmm, my game idea may not work so well during business hours.

  93. rodney dill says:

    this is just pure bunk. I have no idea why I would have entered any of those terms into google when I was looking for objective measurements surge petraeus,

    AFTER I said the goals were in such a document, why wouldn’t you just find the document to find the goals. BEFORE this then you have do just google and search, which is what I did. My googling led me to the document. Even after Grewgills gave the link to the document the complaining didnt’ cease.

    I didn’t know what I was looking for either, It took me several. I finally (15 minutes) found a link in dkosopedia to the whitehouse factsheet, and found a PDF presentation under that. I never said I expected you to go directly to the document before I gave the key words to the document.

  94. Hal says:

    AFTER I said the goals were in such a document, why wouldn’t you just find the document to find the goals.

    Well, BY THAT TIME, I was rather pissed at having someone tell me I was being a lazy slob and couldn’t find the information that they had but were withholding because they wanted to school me. Certainly, BY THAT TIME, the conversation had already degenerated to where no one was even interested in it any more. In my comment I found the summary, which essentially contained the same info, and openly asked if that was a good enough document stating the objectives. Crickets chirping until Grewgills came up with a better match.

    never said I expected you to go directly to the document before I gave the key words to the document.

    Um, read your comment again. The way I certainly took your comment was the literal words you wrote. Certainly, that was the same interpretation that Michael seemed to have.

    Again, the point is, if you have the info – which you claim you did – and don’t give the link, WTF are you doing that for? Further, when you claim you hold the info and withhold the link AND THEN put a barb in your comment suggesting I’m just not actually trying, then how the heck do you think I’m going to respond? And then you come back sporting a full on scold telling us that all we had to do was enter in the right search term and we would have found it.

    Geebus

    <and yes, that’s now two beers>

  95. rodney dill says:

    never said I expected you to go directly to the document before I gave the key words to the document.

    Um, read your comment again. The way I certainly took your comment was the literal words you wrote. Certainly, that was the same interpretation that Michael seemed to have.

    It depends on which comment and when the sequence of the posts, but I did/do expect that someone could with a certain amount of searching find that document. I would not expect them to pull the document name directly out of thin air before knowing it existed. (i.e. before I post knowledge of its existence)

    I searched for keywords like you used initally, (surge, goals, success… etc). I found some rambling posts with the six fundamental mentioned. I switched the search to the wording from the six fundamentals, and found the dkosopedia entry, which pointed to the whitehouse factsheet. I didn’t know that there anysuch thing as whitehouse factsheets before this exercise. (apparently anjin still doesn’t think they exist) 😉

    Again, the point is, if you have the info – which you claim you did – and don’t give the link, WTF are you doing that for?

    Already answered, at least to my own satisfaction.

  96. Michael says:

    Well, the number of provinces now being fully controlled by Iraqi forces leaps to mind. Certainly, unattainable pre-surge. Them taking ownership of the situation… wasn’t that one of the stated goals, even from a political standpoint?

    And how is that not tactical in nature?

    What was needed for a political solutino was to secure the region against people who would given the chance prevent that political solution. That being done, there is a sense of momentum now, toward the goal on both parts where there was none previously.

    You are perpetuating the problem, Bit. The surge can not produce a political solution, so it should never have been used as a stated goal of the surge. As you said, the surge could remove obstacles to a political solution, but it cannot actively promote one.

    If you say that a political solution was a goal of the surge, then the surge failed. This is what Obama and most Democrats are saying, that the Bush administration said the surge would produce a political solution, and that by this definition it has not succeeded.

    And I suspect and suppose that the biggest problem that the Democrats have with all of this is that rather than the picture the Democrats were painting, of them heroically stopping a hopeless war, we have a picture of a Republican White House winning the war, despite their contunual roadblocks to victory… despite their actively seeking our defeat…and the Democrats trying to explain to angry voters why losing the war would have been better.

    You suspect and suppose wrongly.

  97. Bithead says:

    Better yet, just take a drink of it every time Hal says “Geebus”, it’ll become a new OTB drinking game

    No fair! By then, he’s already got a head start!

  98. Bithead says:

    The surge can not produce a political solution, so it should never have been used as a stated goal of the surge. As you said, the surge could remove obstacles to a political solution, but it cannot actively promote one.

    The political solution would never have occurred without the surge.

  99. Michael says:

    The political solution would never have occurred without the surge.

    Doesn’t matter, the surge couldn’t have made it occur, some other action had to do that. The success of that other action depended on the success of the surge, but the success of the surge should never have been made dependent on the success of that other action.

  100. Bruce Moomaw says:

    I’ll go further than that: the ability of the Surge to assure that Iraq won’t blow sky-high in the next few months is extremely limited.

    First: al-Sadr called a halt to his own fighting in early 2006 — long before the Surge. It’s a pretty safe bet that he did so because he thought that his party had a good chance of winning the upcoming election — which it still does. (Al-Maliki is also perfectly well aware of this, which is the main reason he’s now decided to tell most of the US troops to get lost in the near future. After all, that’s the position of 3/4 of Iraqis in the series of ABC-BBC polls of the country, including the most recent one in February (despite the fact that Iraqis are somewhat more optimistic now than they were last September) — see pg. 29-32 and 38.

    Second, there’s the fact pointed out by Eric Martin that — contrary to the propaganda eagerly promulgated both by the White House and by McCain — our Faithful New Sunni Friends acquired in the Anbar Awakening are anything but:

    “While it is true that many former Sunni insurgents have ceased attacks on the Shiite-led Iraqi government and US forces (opting, instead, to collaborate with US forces in going after AQI and, in turn, establish local fiefdoms and receive money, arms and other support) that represents a temporary, contingent and highly precarious truce. Not an end but a pause (and not a complete pause either).

    “As recently as Friday, [some] Sunni leaders reiterated their demands: either the Maliki government must integrate their cadres into the Iraq Security Forces (ISF), or they will resume the fighting — and they want more money to boot. The Maliki government has, thus far, made it clear that it will only allow a tiny fraction of the Sunni forces into the ISF, and so the stage is set for a future battle. Making matters worse, many of these Sunni elements have been quite brazen in stating their intention to lay low in anticipation of the right opportunity to launch operations to ‘retake’ Baghdad from the Shiites — which explains, in part, Maliki’s reluctance to welcome large numbers of these groups into the ISF.” (By the way, in that February poll, 62% of Sunnis and 43% of Shiites told the ABC-BBC pollsters that they still regard “attacks on coalition forces” as “acceptable”.)

    So, you’ll excuse me if I regard the current “success” of the Surge as being about as reassuring as the silence of Mt. Pelee was to the inhabitants of St. Pierre just before the side blew out of it.

  101. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Really, the most important question of all is: “Once this whole thing is finally done — regardless of how much more blood gets spilled in the process — what are we going to end up with?” The answer is that we will have replaced Saddam with a (hopefully) less belligerent Shiite strongman who will spend all his time trying to play us and Iran off against each other — maybe with a smaller, separate Sunni tyranny attached to his northern border (whose inhabitants will have virtually no tolerance for any al-Qaida presence, as Saddam himself didn’t). Worth $1 trillion-plus, and 5000-plus American lives? You decide.