Sunday, July 20, 2008
A Surge of Ignorance
To hear John McCain tell it, the lessening violence in Iraq is the result of the surge of US troops, which he supported. Now if you buy the argument that the US has any business having troops in Iraq in the first place, then perhaps the surge did help - but it's a weird idea to think that increasing the number of troops helped to lessen the violence, much of which was caused by the presence of US troops in Iraq in the first place. But the main reason for the lessening violence in Iraq, the reason that John McCain studiously and ignorantly ignores, is the cease-fire declared by Moqtada Al-Sadr last August. If you look at US casualties, the number stayed pretty level through August of 2007, then started to decline precipitously. The surge had been in place for months at that point with little effect. But immediately after the Mahdi Army cease-fire, US casualties fell in each month to the low levels now being seen. News reports at the time reflected the dramatic impact the cease-fire might have on the spiral of violence:
Mowaffak al-Rubbaie, Iraq's national security adviser, said Baghdad would only welcome the move if Sadr's lieutenants stop attacks and their attempts to "blow up" the Iraqi government. "I will see on the ground what is going to happen," he said. "It is good news if it is true. If it happens it will reduce violence in the country a great deal."So the "biggest threat to stability" declared a cease-fire that was expected to "reduce violence a great deal". But to listen to John McCain, it's all about the surge of US troops. And this is the guy who claims to be the foreign policy expert in the race.
The Pentagon has identified Sadr's militia as the biggest threat to stability in the war-ravaged country, even ahead of the Iraqi al-Qa'eda network.