Surge Envy

Surge: The final frontier. Its mission: to send “mass” forces in Iraq to … win. To explore strange worlds, to save lives and ancient civilizations, to boldly go where no 30,000 has gone before. (Cue music.)

Questions have simmered amid whispered speculation on the value of the surge, the addition of 30,000 troops to the 130,000 already on the ground in Iraq. Was this increase of less than 25 percent just what commanders ordered to tip the scales? An accurate answer might lie many years down the road (that is, if some Ph.D. candidate stumbles upon some obscure references to the current operations in Iraq).

The Washington Post associate editor and prolific author Bob “Watergate” Woodward, author of The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008″ (Simon & Schuster, 2005), reports that “groundbreaking” new covert techniques enabled U.S. military and intelligence officials to locate and kill insurgent leaders and key individuals in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.” He sites four factors in reducing violence there: “covert operations, the influx of troops [surge], the decision by militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to rein in his powerful Mahdi Army, and the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda.” Our guess has long been Sadr’s cooperation and the Take Back the Streets movement (of sorts) in Anbar have been da’ bombs (no pun) and might prove deciding factors long after the combat Yanks go home. 

The covert techniques Woodward mentions might have included Great Britain’s elite special forces, the Special Air Services, eradicating 3,500 or so thugs/freedom fighters in the past year, according to a U.S. intel source. (This info is in the public domain, he says.) Did the surge help create an environment in which the silent and deadly could do their work? Did it set the political stage for Iraqi v. Iraqi? Were people more willing to give up the bad guys and take to the streets again? Chicken-egg?

The reality of the surge might be most important to U.S. strategic types. Woodward’s account shows both a military and civilian leadership in disagreement. Though the current political administration has come under intense criticism over operations in Iraq, if reports on the book are any indication, the current commander in chief might come out on top, though others, like former Iraq commander and current Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., do not fare so well. (Reports say the White House is protesting POTUS’ portrayal.)

It seems the book makes compelling reading for political and military wonks alike. One of the juicier tidbits is the role Woodward recounts of retired Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane. It seems the president; Gen. “King David” Petraeus,the current man of the hour in Iraq; and Uncle Jack had an elaborate system of “back channeling” information, using the vice president, for example, it seems without his knowledge. Wonk heaven!

King David himself is not yet doing the victory jig in the end zone. Woodward, the consummate D.C. insider, might have written quite the little gem. Surge, the final frontier.

Recent Posts