If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Question: if the surge is working, why are we still losing? That’s the oft asked question that starts from the wrong premise: that we’re losing. Seth at Security Dilemmas gets the point of the surge: 

The surge is intended not to pacify the country, but rather to provide sufficient security to create breathing room in which the government can pass needed laws and stabilize the political situation.

But while the surge may be working, the political process is not. All of the people cited above for their optimism on the military aspect of the surge also voiced their pessimism about the political side. Admiral Mullen stated that “there does not appear to be much political progress” in resolving the critical issues that might ease sectarian violence.

Admiral Mullen, in his confirmation Senate confirmation hearing, Admiral Mike Mullen, soon-to-be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, gave his frank thoughts on the problems in Iraq in a prepared response.

1. Did not fully integrate all elements of U.S. national power in Iraq.

2. Focused most attention on the Iraqi national power structures with limited engagement of the tribal and local power structures.

3. Did not establish an early and significant dialogue with neighboring countries, adding to the complex security environment a problematic border situation.

4. Disbanded the entire Iraqi Army, a potentially valuable asset for security, reconstruction, and provision of services to the Iraqi people, providing a recruiting pool for extremist groups.

5. Pursued a de-Baathification process that proved more divisive than helpful, created a lingering vacuum in governmental capability that still lingers, and exacerbated sectarian tensions.

6. Attempted to transition to stability operations with an insufficient force.

7. Unsuccessful in communicating and convincing Iraqis and regional audience of our intended goals.

Yes. Clearly. Let’s go through these: #1 is still not happening; #2 is just getting addressed; #3 was until very recently rejected outright; #4 oh yeah; #5 again, oh yeah; #6 winning the war doesn’t end with major combat operations and it never, ever did; #7 absolutely and loops us back to the fact that we’re not winning if no one knows we’re winning.

As Iraq Slogger notes, US News & World Report’s Terry Atlas picks up on the implication of what the Admiral wrote, explaining,

Mullen, of course, didn’t name names, but he hardly needed to since these mistakes were based on key decisions and orders so closely tied to former Iraq occupation chief Paul Bremer (who disbanded the Army and ordered de-Baathification), former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who held down troop levels and froze out the State Department in post-war planning), Vice President Cheney, and President Bush himself.

MSNBC, in an interview with Stephen Hayes, author of the Cheney biography Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, notes Cheney himself apparently agrees the Bremer didn’t help much:

Q: Do you get the sense he has any regrets about how the war has been run?

Stephen Hayes: Cheney was concerned early on about the insurgency and with how the CIA and Pentagon were handling it. He thought it was better if we had dropped in a provisional government of our own choosing but consisting of Iraqis — we would have had less of an American presence.

But he lost that argument, and I get the sense that he thinks if his advice had been listened to, we might not be in the position that we’re in now, potentially.

Q: That was in 2003… what about mistakes since then?

SH: There were not many specifics, no. He thinks the establishment of the CPA was a major mistake.

He’s admitted that the war has been harder than he expected.

Answer: we’re still losing because we haven’t gone in to save the farm with everything we can. The President is not fully engage, his Secretary of State isn’t fully engaged, and our nation’s Chief Information Officer doesn’t understand or appreciate the importance of her role. Is anybody else in the cabinet doing anything? Almost everything is left on the military to sort out, which they are starting to do, but they aren’t equipped, staffed, or trained to do it alone. 

We now seem to have the number of personnel in Iraq fitting the recommendations for stability operations and state-building. But these few hundred thousand armed men in Iraq that General Shinseki suggested would be required, it’s not the same when half the number is contractors. Let’s not even get into when contractors, this time for State, further screw with our reputation, almost as low as it can get, in Iraq and elsewhere around the world.

The Marines are at war, America is at the mall Forgotten in the links and quotes above is the involvement of the American people. None of the above really matters if the American people do not support the mission. Not surprisingly, they do not. Poor decisions and mismanagement by seemingly smart people has resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 American servicemen and women, allies, and contractors, plus an untold number of Iraqis. Fateful decisions that ignored educated advice, excluded experienced and willing personnel, not only pissed away billions of dollars, shaken the readiness of our military, but also squandered valuable time and opportunities to win the psychological struggle for individuals and groups. Our reputation is shot. To put it simply, we will no longer have the benefit of the doubt when something bad happens.

We can “win” (be sure to define “win”), but not on our current trajectory. And not “winning” will only result in very bad things in the future.

5 Replies to “If the surge is working, why are we still losing?”

  1. Your logic, concept of time, and attribution doesn’t hold fly. The majority of deaths occurred after the vacuum was created, confidence and legitimacy lost, and factions enabled. Your segmented view discounts empowerment and support created and fueled by bad decisions. This is not to say all responsibility lay on one side, but the truth hurts: smarter actions based on available expertise and knowledge would have not encouraged enemies, former allies and supporters, and neutrals alike to stop supporting the mission, not to mention to actively seek its failure.

  2. Poor decisions and mismanagement by seemingly smart people has resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 American servicemen and women, allies, and contractors, plus an untold number of Iraqis.Did the enemy play no role in the body count? Here we have a perfect example of the current enemy benefiting from the IPB conducted by a previous enemy. The enemy is not responsible, they are politically correct victims of imperialist aggresion. It is the imperialists who sent poor, uneducated victim-volunteers to a war of choice who are to blame.
    That narrative was in place Before Bush. The enemy’s strategic communications campaign relies on it heavily.

  3. Ah, Cannoneer, life would be so simple if we all lived in your binary world. Re-read the post and re-read my recomment. To make it simple, here’s the key take-away: This is not to say all responsibility lay on one side and smarter actions based on available expertise and knowledge would have not encouraged enemies, former allies and supporters, and neutrals alike to stop supporting the mission, not to mention to actively seek its failure.

  4. So all enemy successes are the result of dumb friendly decisions?There must be somebody to blame for every casualty, and it can’t be the sniper who fired the bullet or the insurgent who emplaced the IED.
    That is the mind set the Soviets set out to create.

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