When Bush ordered the surge, against all contrary advice, he held up his patron saint, Gen. Petreaus, the man who literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, as the savior of the occupation. The good General was going to wrest victory from the jaws of defeatism by securing Baghdad and giving the Iraqi government "breathing room" to achieve reconcilation. In March, Petreaus himself said:
"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus told a news conference, adding that political negotiations were crucial to forging any lasting peace.
Just give it another six months the experts said and there will either be real progress or the occupation will be done. And now Petraeus is poised to deliver the "good" news. He sees progress, but it is it political? No. The small gains have all been on the military side, a fact not lost on those who are manning the surge.
Pouring troops into the capital is no doubt going to make some areas safer, said one Marine officer, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the upcoming assessment.
"I don't know anyone who said, 'Let's have an argument on whether 20,000 troops can have an impact on some neighborhoods,' " the officer said. "I heard a debate about whether a 20,000-man surge would appreciably enhance the security of the Iraqi people and end the sectarian violence so political reconciliation could occur across the country, not just in Baghdad neighborhoods.
"This is not a military contest," he said.
Hilzoy sums up the meaning of this development rather well.
So where does that leave us? We know our presence in Iraq cannot be sustained at surge levels past April, and it probably can't be sustained at pre-surge levels much longer either. We are either going to leave or to draw down our troops substantially. Any military progress that will not survive our departure is a temporary fix. If the Iraqi government took advantage of the surge to pursue serious political reconciliation, they might use the opportunity to make lasting improvements. But they show no signs of doing so; it's not even clear that they want to.
Under the circumstances, then, I assume that General Petraeus will report military progress. It would be surprising if he didn't: after all, our army does a good job, and it would be odd if tens of thousands of additional troops had no effect at all. But it's meaningless without political reconciliation. And there is no political reconciliation in sight.
Let's repeat that one more time. There is no military solution so military progress is effectively meaningless. I recall all the moderate surge supporters around Blogtopia swearing in February and March that in six months they would join us "defeatists" in calling for withdrawal if significant progress hadn't been made. The time has come to keep that promise.
The surge has failed to meet its stated mission. The only way we're going to force our government to enact a realistic strategy is with bi-partisan pressure. We can't count on our politicians to achieve that so it's up to the Blogtopians to get the ball rolling towards consensus. If the moderates fail to keep their word and instead aid and abet the White House in wrestling back the goal posts, then they will earn the same credibility the administration has with me, which is to say -- none.