Surge or Power Failure?

Posted by Cutler on March 07, 2007
Iraq

In early February, as the US was preparing to inaugurate its “surge” in Baghdad, I asked some questions about the mission and goals of any such surge.

At that time, I asked:

Is the US trying to use American soldiers to protect Shiite and Sunni populations from each other in the name of National Reconciliation?

Good luck with that.

My skepticism about the likelihood of American soldiers being able to protect the Shiite population–if one could stipulate population protection as the major goal–was grounded in the fear that there would be days like these:

Suicide bombers… and gunmen firing out of passing cars, turned preparations for a Shiite Muslim religious celebration into a day of carnage on Tuesday. At least 109 Shiite pilgrims were killed and more than 200 wounded with the death toll continuing to rise.

The attacks demonstrated that Sunni militants could still inflict grave damage inside or outside the capital even as the American-backed Baghdad security plan entered its fourth week. The attacks immediately drew Shiite calls for reprisals.

The surge is focused on a Baghdad crackdown and these attacks occurred in Shiite-dominated southern Iraq.  But political consequences will almost certainly registered in Baghdad.  Indeed, if the surge was meant to protect Shiite populations, prevent Shiite reprisals in Baghdad, and achieve national reconciliation (an admittedly big if), then the success of a each major attack on Shiites marks the failure of the surge.

There are other ways of explaining the goals for the surge that are not defined in terms of population protection and do not involve national reconciliation–for example, the surge might ultimately aim more specifically to launch a big counter-insurgency push against the Sunni insurgency, an anti-Shiite coup, or a two-front war on Sunni and Shiite rejectionists.

But if the mission was to have US troops provide security for Iraqi Shiites… well…

Good luck with that.

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