Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Next Stop Baghdad?
Iraq: The Logic of Disengagement
How to Win in Iraq
Why Air Strikes Might Not be Enough
The Price of the Surge
When to Leave Iraq
Today, Tomorrow, or Yesterday?
How to Leave a Stable Iraq
Building on Progress
Iraq, From Surge to Sovereignty
Winding Down the War in Iraq
It's Hard to Say Goodbye to Iraq
Why the United States Should Withdraw this December
The Problem With Obama's Decision to Leave Iraq
How to Salvage the Relationship Between Washington and Baghdad
The Iraq We Left Behind
Welcome to the World’s Next Failed State
Is Iraq on Track?
Democracy and Disorder in Baghdad
When the Shiites Rise
Why Separatism Could Rip the Country Apart—Again
Collateral Damage in Iraq
The Rise of ISIS and the Fall of al Qaeda
Kurds to the Rescue
How to Get the Kurdish Regional Goverment to Take on ISIS
The Fallacy of Iranian Leverage
Why the Turmoil in Iraq Will Weaken the Islamic Republic
Who Lost Iraq?
And How to Get It Back
Maliki Isn't the Problem
The Roots of Sectarianism in Iraq
Syria and the Violence in Iraq
In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new approach to the war in Iraq. At the time, sectarian and insurgent violence appeared to be spiraling out of control, and Democrats in Washington -- newly in control of both houses of Congress -- were demanding that the administration start winding down the war. Bush knew he needed to change course, but he refused to, as he put it, "give up the goal of winning." So rather than acquiesce to calls for withdrawal, he decided to ramp up U.S. efforts. With a "surge" in troops, a new emphasis on counterinsurgency strategy, and new commanders overseeing that strategy, Bush declared, the deteriorating situation could be turned around.
More than a year on, a growing conventional wisdom holds that the surge has paid off handsomely. U.S. casualties are down significantly from their peak in mid-2007, the level of violence in Iraq is lower than at any point since 2005, and Baghdad seems the safest it has been since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime five years ago. Some backers of the surge even argue that the Iraqi civil war is over and that victory on Washington's terms is in sight -- so long as the United States has the will to see its current efforts through to their conclusion.
Unfortunately, such claims misconstrue the causes of the recent fall in violence and, more important, ignore a fatal flaw in the strategy. The surge has changed the situation not by itself but only in conjunction with several other developments: the grim successes of ethnic cleansing, the tactical quiescence of the Shiite militias, and a series of deals between U.S. forces and Sunni tribes that constitute a new bottom-up approach to pacifying Iraq. The problem is that this strategy to reduce violence is not linked to any sustainable plan for building a viable Iraqi state. If anything, it has made such an outcome less likely, by stoking the revanchist fantasies of Sunni Arab tribes
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