The Surge Case Essay
The Surge Case
There is one strategic enemy that the United States is facing in Iraq, and that enemy will only be strengthened by the so-called “Surge” now being executed by the American military. This existential enemy is al-Qaeda and its associates, and the Surge must be discontinued because its continuation will only serve to strengthen our true enemy. It is important to keep in mind that, despite all the carnage in Iraq, the vast majority of it is Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. There are many wars waging in Iraq right now, and the Iraqi civil war in one in which the United States must not involve itself more deeply. The civil war is rooted in forces that are far older than the United States is as a nation. The Surge is being carried out under the premise that the American military can stop Iraq’s civil war. This is a delusional premise.
The United States military has had four years to stabilize Baghdad, and the arc of violence over that time has increased relentlessly. After four years, we must see this not as coincidence but as evidence that the American military cannot prevent or mediate Iraq’s civil war.
As tragic as this violence is, it does not threaten the national security of the United States. The idea that the Iraqi central government was an integral part of American interest and that a new central government could be easily installed and recruited as an ally was the very folly that led to the American invasion in the first place.
Four years later, we have thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and, as unlikely as it would have seemed four years ago, Baghdad is far more dangerous for its people than it was under Saddam Hussein. This does not reflect American hostility towards the Iraqis, but it clearly reflects the fact that the American military cannot secure Baghdad.
Years of failure is not a reason to quit if your security is truly at stake, but it is surely a reason to quit if your security is not at stake. The security of the United States is not truly threatened by sectarian violence in Baghdad. It is, however, threatened by an enemy who grows stronger with every day the American military is mired in Iraq’s civil war.
The anarchy of postwar Iraq created a haven for al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists that have received years of the ultimate on-the-spot training. In Afghanistan, al-Qaeda trained in a more academic sense, receiving indoctrination more than combat experience. In Iraq, al-Qaeda operatives are directly confronting the strongest military on Earth; those who survive will take their bomb-making skills and combat experience and spread it throughout the globe.
There are two reasons that abandoning the Surge and withdrawing the large majority of American combat troops from Iraq will help us combat the strategic enemy of al-Qaeda rather than to swat tactically at Shiite militias in Baghdad who, although they are no angels, have no desire to “follow us home”.
The first is a simple issue of resources. With so much American blood, money, and technology focused on mediating a civil war in Baghdad, the military is, by definition, not able to focus as fully on other problems. Afghanistan is destabilizing. Western Pakistan remains ungoverned. The National Guard and Reserves are depleted. If there is a major attack an American soil and the National Guard does not have the men and equipment it needs to save American citizens, how can we look back and justify having all those resources in Baghdad? This list of hypotheticals runs very deep.
The second reason to wind down the Surge is that our doing so will weaken our strategic enemy in Iraq. There was no Islamist terrorist network in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Our invasion caused unknown thousands of jihadists to flock to Iraq, where they have carried out literally hundreds of suicide bombings, which were unknown in prewar Iraq.
Al-Qaeda, like all militant groups, must have some level of popular support in order to able to operate. Americans cannot possibly hunt down al-Qaeda cells in western Iraq because they do not know the culture or the language. The only people who can drive al-Qaeda out are the very local Sunnis who allowed them in and harbored them in the first place.
American policy must be to find a way to undermine any support that al-Qaeda has among Iraqis. The way to do this is to withdraw combat forces. Al-Qaeda thrives because it kills Americans. If there were no Americans in Iraq, Sunni Arabs would rapidly lose incentive to harbor these psychopaths. The Shiites have no common cause with al-Qaeda, as al-Qaeda has relentlessly targeted them in hopes of starting a civil war. The Kurds have no time for the terrorists, as they are developing their relatively peaceful and prosperous region in the north of Iraq. Only Sunnis have a reason to cooperate with al-Qaeda. We must rob them of that reason.
We are beginning to see that al-Qaeda and local Iraqi Sunnis are at odds. Al-Qaeda’s nihilistic violence has started to disgust local Iraqi Sunnis, who are beginning to accept that they cannot return to power and that they must work within the government to protect their interests. Al-Qaeda has responded by murdering moderate Sunnis, including members of parliament.
This is great news for the United States, as it proves that there really is not a natural Iraqi constituency for al-Qaeda. If there were no American soldiers in Iraq, al-Qaeda’s support would plummet. America must not mistake tactical enemies for strategic enemies; it must focus on its strategic enemy, al Qaeda, and work to dry up its local support. They way to do this is to leave.
This website has extensive casualty figures presented in various formats that all show the same relentless trend; the rate of American, and especially Iraqi, deaths has been steadily increasing over the past 4 years.
In the “Civil War: The Iraq Quagmire” section of this site. The nature of the violence in Iraq is distilled into its component parts. This site does a good job of showing that the overwhelming majority of the violence in Iraq does not involve Americans; it is a civil war.
Sappenfield, Mark. “For Guard, Equipment Falls Short.” Christian Science Monitor 27
September 2005. http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0927/p03s01-usmi.html
Sappenfield’s piece exposes how the unprecedented reliance on the Army National Guard is having a real and quantifiable effect of the Guard’s ability to fulfill its primary mission, which is defense of the homeland in event of natural or manmade disasters.
Semple, Kirk. “Iraqi Officials Say Top Qaeda Leader May Have Been Killed.” New York
Times 2 May 2007: A9.
Semple, Kirk. “Uneasy Alliance is Taming One Insurgent Bastion.” New York Times 29 April
These pieces illustrates what is a very encouraging trend for Americans; the Sunni tribes of Anbar province are beginning to turn on Al Qaeda, repulsed by their nihilistic violence and lack of positive vision for the future. It is my assertion that this trend would only quicken if the Americans withdrew, thereby depriving Al Qaeda of the excuse that it must be sheltered in order to fight the common enemy.
Sifry, Micah and Christopher Cerf, eds. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions.
New York: Touchstone, 2003.
This is a useful general reference, especially valuable since much of the material is from
the Iraqi perspective, which is far too rare in books on Iraq.
Wittman, George H. “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Spectator 23 April 2007.
A useful study of Al Qaeda’s strategy, tactics, support networks, etc.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 March 2017