Thursday, June 12, 2008


A couple of years ago (can’t remember specific time) on his “Special Report” show, I remember an occasion when Fox News’ Brit Hume seemed to be gloating about a reduction in troop casualties over the previous two months. He was decidedly pleased that the “facts on the ground” were confounding the previous narrative that Iraq was hell bound. This was just before the bombing of the Golden Mosque and the hell that broke out in 2006, where casualties (both American and Iraqi) rose substantially.

Over the past couple of months, as the “surge” has taken hold, American casualties (and indeed Iraqi casualties) have declined considerably, from a high of 131 in May 2007, to a low of 19 in May 2008. General David Petraeus and his men: as well as, a more assertive Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, have been credited with the success of the surge. Success in the military front has also been accompanied by some success on the political and economic fronts.

Over the past couple of days – starting with an article by Fred Kagan, the architect of the surge - there has been a great deal of self congratulation among the supporters of the surge. Granted the situation in Iraq has considerably improved in the past 18 months, one cannot help but feel a sense of déjà vu. Democrats had opposed and presaged a failure of the surge, and in light of the recent success, the Republicans feel a need to one up their opponents on an issue the Democrats had an advantage on. However, this does not mean that the Republicans should ignore their previous premature celebrations. Cautious optimism should be the mantra, “Yes things have improved, but if the recent history is any guide, the situation could change radically.”

Hard work lies ahead and it could all unravel, especially as the provincial elections approach later on this year. As Kagan noted on a number of occasions, the militias, and Al Qaeda may be reconstitution, and buying time till the elections (which coincidentally happen in November). Much as the Democrats were mistaken in their premature claims that the surge was failing, Republicans should be careful about prematurely declaring victory. “Officials often stress that the security gains in recent months, while real, remain fragile.”


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