Why I support the surge

Since I opposed our invasion of Iraq from the start and have written extensively in this paper on the case for impeaching George W. Bush, it may seem contradictory that I now support the so-called surge. It may seem even stranger when I go a step further than Chuck Hagel, and call Bush’s war of choice our worst foreign policy blunder—not since Vietnam—but in this country’s history.

Given this background, I hope that my explanation serves to help others—who have been equally opposed to this war—find a way to give this “one last chance” their support. I am not optimistic that the surge will serve the intended purpose of quelling the violence in Iraq. In fact, I have a laundry list of 13 reasons why it may not work (below). In this sense, I’m like Ted Koppel in thinking that the hornets’ nest we have punctured may very well have hornets swarming around the world for decades—even multiple generations—to come. Nonetheless, there is enough different about this “surge” from the four previous years to give it one last chance. I will present my list of reasons for being pessimistic first, and will conclude with two reasons for cautious optimism.

1. We are fighting on their turf; Iraqis of all stripes believe they are defending their homeland.

2. We are fighting an invisible enemy—hidden among the people.

3. Great Britain tried to pacify Iraq for roughly 40 years and failed.

4. The Soviet Union’s demise followed its prolonged, but failed, attempt to “pacify” Afghanistan.

5. The insurgents are more than just willing to be martyrs; they actively seek martyrdom.

6. Our brave men and women in uniform want to come home ASAP.

7. The insurgents are home.

8. Our disingenuous attempt to bring “democracy” to the region prevents us from fighting to win.

9. Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, et al., have squandered our moral high ground and the world’s respect.

10. The troop-to-population ratio is still far too small, even with Bush’s most recent 40,000+ increase.

11. Only one-third of 1 percent of the American people are directly involved in this war; this is not an American war, but the American military’s war. There is a huge difference.

12. There is no practical way to sufficiently increase the overall size of the military, short of a draft.

13. When they hit us again here, which will happen regardless of how long we are over there, this may very well make 9/11 pale in comparison.

Given the above, how in the world can I have one shred of optimism? I have two reasons. First, we now have what appears to be a genuine two-fold Baker-Hamilton style approach under way—General David Petraeus’s real counterinsurgency effort AND the beginnings of a multilateral attempt at diplomacy with regional stakeholders involved. Arab and non-Arab countries in the Middle East are beginning to realize that a failure to stabilize Iraq brings a very high probability of spreading sectarian violence across their borders. Second, Bush is finally taking an interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Even if this two-fold effort brings a degree of stability to Iraq, which is better than the alternative, the American people need to grow accustomed to the idea that it looks like we will be fighting the war on terrorism for a very long time to come. This war actually started 24 years ago, with the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. As Ted Koppel’s documentary puts it, this is going to be our grandchildren’s war. Let us give them a chance, and support the surge.

W. Harrison Goodenow is a Rockford resident.

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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