Will a temporary surge in U.S. troops turn the tide in Iraq?
It now seems that the most popular change in strategy for coping with the "rising violence" in Iraq is a temporary "surge" in U.S. troops in Iraq on the order of 20,000. An article in The New York Times by David Sanger and Michael Gordon entitled "Options Weighed for Surge in G.I.'s to Stabilize Iraq" reports that the White House is seriously considering such "surge" options. The big question remains whether any such option is likely to be successful as more than simply a temporary fix unlikely to add enough momentum to the work that the Iraqis themselves need to perform. My answer: No.
The elephant standing in the middle of the room that U.S. "policy-makers" are unwilling to acknowledge is that it is the mere presence of U.S. troops in Iraq in any number is the underlying cause of unrest and the primary impediment to the Iraqis coming together as an integrated nation. The solution is to take 100% of U.S. forces out of the equation and then the Iraqis can focus on their own, indiginous issues rather than having one of the twin bogeymen of the Middle East in their faces every single day. If Iraq is a "central front" for terrorism in the Middle East, it is the presence of the United States which is creating the conditions for that front and drawing in potential terrorists and turning them from being mere malcontents to actual terrorists.
The high-profile presence of U.S. forces in any number other than zero is an extreme distraction that prevents the parties in Iraq from focusing on the political issues. It is the lack of progress on the political issues that leads to violent action. Violence is frequently a political tool, used when non-violent political processes are precluded, as for example with the extreme meddling of the United States.
There is actually an advantage to all the chattering about a troop "surge", since it re-focuses the Iraqis on the need for them to get their act together and come up with a dis-engagement plan for the departure of U.S. forces that they can present to the U.S. as a non-negotiable "requirement" (demand.) The alarm caused in Iraq over a potential U.S. "surge" could help move up the pace of a departure plan by a month or more.
I do not know why so many people in Washington are being so stupid and unable to grasp that Iraq is a political problem, not a military problem. Actually, I do know the answer and it is that a very strong pro-military establishment has infected U.S. politics, in particular, the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. To them, merely "diplomacy" is considered a joke and smacks of "appeasement." Asking these folks in the U.S. to engage in diplomacy is an exercise in futility. Talk to Iran and Syria? No, they would prefer to bomb them.
Maybe the best that the White House and Pentagon can do right now is to give us a lot of big talk about a possible "surge" while quietly withdrawing troops behind the scenes. By not publicly admitting to the withdrawal of those troops the White House and Pentagon can have its cake and eat it too. If U.S. troops are gradually moved out of the populated and contentious areas of Iraq to remote bases in Iraq, the U.S. won't even have to publicly admit to reducing the number of troops "in" Iraq at all.
So, let's tolerate all the big talk of a surge, while the Iraqis will pick up the hint and soon enough tell us to take a hike and be good American tourists and go home after spending our money.