The Forest From the Trees

As much as I heart Keith Olbermann, I want to throw in my two-cents about a point he was making yesterday when blasting Bush for the Maliki government’s arrest of Sunni Awakening leaders, arguing correctly that if the 100,000 some-odd armed Sunni Awakening members are not adequately mollifed, the security gains of the surge will likely be compromised. In his coup de gras, Olbermann snarked, “President Bush, there goes your surge.”

This analysis, while essentially correct, represents an endemic tendency to criticize the tactics of George Bush when the strategy of George Bush and John McCain is a far worthier target of derision.

The problem with the surge more broadly is the misguided premise supporting it. That is, the stated success of the surge (fostering political reconciliation through reduced violence) necessarily identifies the US military as the primary motivator of Iraqi political reconciliation. This strategy foolishly positions the US military as the most powerful variable in the Iraqi political equation. Essentially then, even if the surge had successfully “balanced the equation” (which it most certainly has not), the removal of the US as a key variable would immediately throw the calculus into discord.

So long as the US military motivates political reconciliation, true and lasting compromise will be impossible. Insofar as the surge alleviates violence within this framework, it’s success will be in the long run, beside the point.


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