Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.
Some observers are reporting the shift. Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and Omar Fadhil, widely respected for their straight talk, say that "early signs are encouraging." The first impact of the "surge," they write, was psychological. Both friends and foes in Iraq had been convinced, in no small part by the American media, that the United States was preparing to pull out. When the opposite occurred, this alone shifted the dynamic.
A couple of bloggers? Well, let's hear from another fairly well-known Iraqi blogger about how she thinks things are going:
Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.
I think it's going to take more than cleaning up some neighborhoods in Baghdad to bring someone with that sort of attitude around. Though maybe after six months or more of "surging" she'll start to feel otherwise. But, the proof is all around apparently:
Apparently some American journalists see the difference. NBC's Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure. The new American strategy of "getting out, decentralizing, going into the neighborhoods, grabbing a toehold, telling the enemy we're here, start talking to the locals -- that is having an obvious and palpable effect." U.S. soldiers forged agreements with local religious leaders and pushed al-Qaeda back -- a trend other observers have noted in some Sunni-dominated areas. The result, Williams said, is that "the war has changed."
Really? Perhaps Brian Williams should talk to the relatives of the 12 people killed in this bombing in Ramadi. Or the families of the 14 people killed in this bombing. Or the families of the 18 people killed in this attack. Oh, but Kagan addresses that:
There is still violence, as Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda seek to prove that the surge is not working. However, they are striking at more vulnerable targets in the provinces.
Like this? This point is just stupid. Of course the insurgents will attack more vulnerable targets. The insurgents have always attacked the most vulnerable targets. That's the point. No one has ever said that American and Iraqi troops couldn't secure parts of Baghdad. What people such as myself (and those more informed than I) have said is that it wouldn't matter. The insurgents will carry out attacks in vulnerable areas, areas that American and Iraq forces are incapable of defending. This alone will undermine the security plan, which appears to have no goal beyond somehow bringing peace to Baghdad, and then, in a way that is as yet unexplained, bringing peace to the rest of the Iraq. More Kagan wisdom:
As for Sadr and the Mahdi Army, it is possible they may reemerge as a problem later.
It's possible? That's all he has to say? Does Kagan honestly think that the Mahdi Army, which has in general (but for splinter groups) abided by Sadr's instructions not to battle American forces, are going to pack up their bags and go home because we're willing to hang around one more year? Try five. Or ten. But nobody's talking about that, because the American people won't stand for it. Besides, if there are many more incidents like this one, the Mahdi Army (or factions thereof) won't wait for American forces to leave. They'll decide to encourage them along their way.
Anyway, Glenn Greenwald says it better than I do, in a column appropriately titled "Why would any rational person listen to Robert Kagan?"
In April, 2003, Kagan declared the war over and said we won. Since then, he has continuously claimed that things were getting better in Iraq. He is completely liberated from any obligation to tell the truth and is a highly destructive propagandist whose public record of commentary about Iraq ought to disqualify him from decent company, let alone some sort of pretense to expertise about this war.
Greenwald then goes on to list some excerpts in which Kagan repeatedly touts the war as a success...in 2003, 2004...and now 2007.
As a consequence of having been repeatedly and glaringly wrong at almost every turn over the last four years, the burden is now upon Kagan and his ilk to convincingly demonstrate to the American people why a continuing, and increasing, commitment to Iraq has any chance whatsoever of success. By virtue of the egregiousness of their wrongness, this is an extremely high burden. Kagan does not rise to the challenge in this op-ed, certainly not by absurdly claiming that only a few weeks in the surge is already succeeding.