Washington Post: the Surge is Working
In an editorial this morning the Washington Post asserts that by any objective standard the Surge is working:
A month later, there isn’t much room for such debate, at least about the latest figures. In September, Iraqi civilian deaths were down 52 percent from August and 77 percent from September 2006, according to the Web site icasualties.org. The Iraqi Health Ministry and the Associated Press reported similar results. U.S. soldiers killed in action numbered 43 — down 43 percent from August and 64 percent from May, which had the highest monthly figure so far this year. The American combat death total was the lowest since July 2006 and was one of the five lowest monthly counts since the insurgency in Iraq took off in April 2004.
During the first 12 days of October the death rates of Iraqis and Americans fell still further. So far during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which began Sept. 13 and ends this weekend, 36 U.S. soldiers have been reported as killed in hostile actions. That is remarkable given that the surge has deployed more American troops in more dangerous places and that in the past al-Qaeda has staged major offensives during Ramadan. Last year, at least 97 American troops died in combat during Ramadan. Al-Qaeda tried to step up attacks this year, U.S. commanders say — so far, with stunningly little success.
and at least some of the Surge’s critics were wrong:
This doesn’t necessarily mean the war is being won. U.S. military commanders have said that no reduction in violence will be sustainable unless Iraqis reach political solutions — and there has been little progress on that front. Nevertheless, it’s looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus’s credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq’s bloodshed were — to put it simply — wrong.
Let me restate my position on the war in Iraq for the umpteenth time: I opposed the invasion for reasons of domestic politics, geopolitics, and practicality that should be apparent if you look around us now. If I’d had my way we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq at all. I don’t think I occupied the moral highground with that position, quite the contrary. Saddam Hussein would have remained in power and would have continued to abuse his own people and further his plans for exerting influence in the region. However, I think that the implications of our withdrawing our forces from Iraq before Iraq is significantly more peaceful and stable than it is now are sufficiently dire with no way of mitigating those consequences once we’ve removed our forces that we need to retain some substantial level of forces there until Iraq is more peaceful and stable than it is now. The first tier Democratic presidential aspirants appear to agree with me.
In my view the national Iraqi government is largely dysfunctional, scarcely a government at all. It’s basically a forum for the militias and the notion that the representatives of the militias will organize the militias’ demise is staggering. I have no idea whether this situation is intrinsic to Iraq or whether when they’re fed up enough Iraqis will put a better government in place. In this light the original stated purpose of the Surge, i.e. to create a political space in which the national Iraqi government can negotiate a political solution to the violence in Iraq is certainly questionable, possibly absurd.
But the effect of this level of success in the Surge has undoubtedly been to create a political space in which American politicians, both Democratic and Republican, will be able to maintain our forces in Iraq if only because nobody knows what else to do.