Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The surge

Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Brown University, writes about the “surge” in Iraq this way in the latest issue of Commonweal magazine:
The military stalemate in Iraq has obliged President Bush to scale back his ambitions. An administration that once articulated its aims in the most grandiose terms-vowing to remake what it called the Greater Middle East-will now settle for considerably less.

The hue and cry provoked by the so-called “surge” has obscured this downsizing of strategic intent. Critics have misread the surge as evidence that the president remains hell-bent on “staying the course.” In fact, the very puniness of this ostensibly major initiative (it qualifies at best as a demi-escalation) speaks to the Bush administration’s reduced strategic appetite. No longer promising to spread freedom across the Islamic world, it is instead searching desperately for ways to prevent Iraq from disintegrating.

The surge amounts to a last-ditch effort to forestall this prospect. Rather than a plan to achieve victory, it is a salvage operation. Administration officials who once spoke glowingly of Iraqi democracy flowering under American tutelage will now be grateful if they manage to ease the mayhem occurring daily in the streets of Baghdad. An administration that once disdained stability now yearns to restore it.

Albany Catholic thinks this is interesting stuff. You can read more here.
Mr. Bacevich also has an article about Iraq in the Los Angeles Times this week, in which he poses questions for the presidential candidates:
Candidates who still find merit in an open-ended global war on terror should explain how we prevail in such an enterprise. Given the lessons of Iraq, what exactly does it mean to wage such a global war? Where can we expect to fight next, and against whom? What will victory look like?

Candidates who, in light of Iraq, have become skeptical of open-ended global war as a response to violent Islamic radicalism should be pressed to describe their alternative. How do they define the threat? How do they propose to deal with it? Will they isolate it? Contain it? Subvert it? Relying on what means and at what costs?

The rest of his interesting article is here.