September 9, 2007

The History of The Surge, The Insider's Edition

The Washington Post tells the story of the surge from inside the Bush administration in a lengthy and intriguing article. Headlined as "Among Top Officials, 'Surge' Has Sparked Dissent, Infighting," the compendium from the Post's reporters actually tells quite a different story. While the surge initially produced dissent -- even within the military command -- the results have united the administration and the military more than at any time over the last eight months.

In the beginning, Republicans outside the administration objected to the new initiative and the Pentagon's new chief, Robert Gates, wanted to start drawing down troops. Having just lost an election with Iraq as a significantly contributing factor, the GOP wanted to see an exit strategy by 2008. George Bush wanted to take one final shot for victory, and he pressed for the surge to give the Iraqis enough time to start creating the political environment where it could take root.

And in the end, it turned out that Bush may have been right (via Memeorandum):

Petraeus was doing his part in Baghdad, hosting dozens of lawmakers and military scholars for PowerPoint presentations on why the Bush strategy had made gains. Many Republicans and even Democrats came home impressed, and suddenly even critics were agreeing that Petraeus had made some progress in security even though the Iraqi political situation remained a mess. Petraeus also persuaded intelligence officials to revise some key judgments of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to reflect security gains.

Some visitors suspected a skewed picture. "We only saw things that reinforced their message that the surge was working," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

But Bush understood that the "breathing space" had yielded little political reconciliation. As summer wore on, Bush grew blunt in his conference calls with Maliki. As one aide recalled, "He would say, 'Hey, you told me you were going to do X, Y and Z. What happened? Are you going to get agreement on these key pieces of legislation or not?' "

In Baghdad, Crocker and O'Sullivan pressed Maliki to reach consensus with four other Iraqi leaders representing Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. In late August, the five announced agreement on a path forward on stalled legislation such as de-Baathification. A week later, Bush made a surprise visit to Anbar where he met with Maliki and the others to congratulate them, then met with the sheiks to highlight the success of the U.S.-tribal coalition.

The trip energized Bush and his team. Even Gates said he was more optimistic than he has been since taking office. While the secretary had been "cagey" in the past, a senior defense official said, "he's come to the conclusion that what Petraeus is doing is actually more effective than what he thought."

Thus, while the surge has created dissent and perhaps in-fighting -- a term that seems an exaggeration from the Post's reporting -- it has created more unanimity now than it had at the start. Even a skeptic such as Gates has decided that the surge has worked, and the Pentagon has started looking to replicate its secondary effect in ground-up reconciliation in other areas of Iraq.

The article shows that progress has been made. Whether we have the political will to press it further is the big question facing the nation when Petraeus testifies.


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Comments (35)

Posted by RBMN | September 9, 2007 10:39 AM

Insurgencies are kind of like weeds. To keep them from taking over a garden, first you have to be in the garden to see when they pop up. Then kill those weeds early, and kill the tap root before it goes deep. What the US military is doing better is just being there to see the weeds pop up. And the gardening never ends. Get a handle on the weeds, and here come the Iranian rabbits.

Posted by Rovin | September 9, 2007 10:57 AM

To keep them from taking over a garden, first you have to be in the garden to see when they pop up.

Another way is to "carpet-bomb" the whole garden, but that would leave little fruit to bear for consumption.

News this morning that Brit Hume has been selected to interview Petraeus and Crocker this Monday night will have a huge impact on the debate. LINK

Posted by Terry Gain | September 9, 2007 10:59 AM

It's inconceivable to me that any Republican could have believed that leaving Iraq in defeat and disgrace would have led to anything but complete electoral annilhilation for the GOP in 2008. (This electoral imperative is what drove the donkeys to treason.)

It's also inconceivable to me that military professionals would have bought the cluelessly biased MSM view that the war was lost when a true counterinsurgency effort had yet to be tried.

Thank goodness GWB refused to play politics with the war.

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 11:29 AM

"The notion that the president was sending even more troops to Iraq after an antiwar public turned control of Congress over to the Democrats exasperated many in the capital."

When you're already deeply unpopular and in your last term of the last elected office you're ever going to hold, you might as well do what you think is right. This has been the unintended byproduct of the relentless attacks on Bush. It has actually made his political calculus all that much easier. Especially when he knows his political opponents are going to be against him no matter what.

"Fallon has made the case that Petraeus's recommendations should consider the political reality in Washington and lay out a guide to troop withdrawals."

I don't know about this Fallon character. The "political reality" in Washington should determine battlefield strategy? As if there's ever any reality in Washington that much of the time, political or otherwise. There's only pointless partisan bickering mixed in with the real work --fundraisers and planning fundraisers and how to get the base to pony up the cash. Maybe Fallon needs to spend more time in Iraq. Get out around some real people.

Posted by eaglewings | September 9, 2007 11:30 AM

Charles, you must qualify the "we" as in "we have the will". Most conservatives and a strong section of Repubs are in the victory is the only option camp. Thus, "we" as in those conservatives and repubs supporting the war have shown strong will to give our troops what they need to be successful. Now, if you mean, by "we", "we"asels of the left and the weasley 'moderates' who have tried to sell out the troops in order to further their rancid political careers; do they have the will to do what is right and let the coalition lay the groundwork for victory, then that is an open question. However, as the winds are starting to blow strongly against these weasels, I don't think they will have the political courage to vote for surrender now that victory seems more likely. So "we" the repubs and conservatives, of the victory party, must continue to make our voices heard to peel away the muddlers from their antiwar positions and toward our camp.

Posted by eaglewings | September 9, 2007 11:32 AM

Sorry the first word should have read "Captain".

Posted by Lew | September 9, 2007 11:37 AM

The decisive question is whether or not the success of the surge has given enough cover to the Republican Moderates in Congress to allow them to continue their support. If this group feel's that their political careers are seriously threatened by their support of the war, they'll abandon this ship like the rats they are.

They couldn't care less about the future of human freedom or the slaughter of millions on prime time TV. They are the simplest creatures in the world to predict because they only have one driving imperative in life - holding office.

If general Petraeus can't give these guys and gals cover, its over!

Posted by NahnCee | September 9, 2007 11:53 AM

The article shows that progress has been made.

How much progress has been made can be judged by the mere fact that one of the biggies in MSM, WaPo, saw fit to print said article. One wonders if the beancounters at the newspaper have been teling the editorial staff that the paper has been backing the wrong meme, so that in addition to Dem leadrship backing off in Congress, we might start to also see "progress" here on this side of the Atlantic. Or a whole bunch of American institutions like newspapers and 6:00 news reports and Hollywood studios are gonna die.

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 9, 2007 11:56 AM


Admiral Fallon is the head of CENTCOM. He's one of the guys required to contribute to "the Bush Report" by the enabling legislation.

See the linked web page (which takes you to the United States Central Command website), and note the little box in the corner with "Featured".

Posted by Carol Herman | September 9, 2007 12:04 PM

Dissent? No. I object.

At the Pentagon, it's called musical chairs.

You'll notice that General Patraeus, who does the heavy lifting, has a "jerk above him," saying "we could do more.' Or we could do less. But as long as the music's playing, round-and-round the chairs we'll go.

Till one of these GRANDEES pops his own bubble.

Ya know? Once we really had baton passing in our military. Let me show you how.

In the Civil War, after trying out a number of incompetent generals, Abraham Lincoln found GRANT.

GRANT's style became the vigorous model taught at West Point. And, who got taught? PERSHING.

WW1. PERSHING. And, if you lifted his wing, you'd see General Douglas MacArthur capturing lessons, galore.

WW2. Patton and MacArthur. Tough as nails. And, they led men the way men need to be led.

Then, alas, just like Detroit; where the car industry comes off the conveyor belts with the best damned products you could buy. They go insane, over there.

George Will reminisced the other day. He went back to that popular book that came out around 1956. About PERSUASION. Which recommended to marketeers, that they no longer had to consider what their engineers were saying. They could sell anything! As long as they advertised it. To let people believe they needed the "status."

The EDSEL tested this one out. (Front grill looked like a toilet seat.) You could as what where these gents thinking? But they'd dress you down. Because they thought they could "persuade" the marketplace.

Well, the EDSEL, a sad story, sat in showrooms for a year or more. And, no one bought one. No one got convinced it was a status symbol. Why? Because you could get others, on the cheap. And, your neighbors would be "fooled" into thinking you were richer than King Midas. (Oh, he's another that lost it all.) Whatever.

The "best and the brightest" ushered in a whole work force into government who are solely dependent, now, on affirmative action.

One could ask: What happens to aristocracies, where those who inherit the wealth, squander it?

Seems like when "bubbles burst" it's GOOD FOR THE MARKET! See? I bet you didn't know that! But what it does is CLEAN HOUSE. Blows out the "flippers" and the "losers" who couldn't make a sane bet if their lives depended on it.

We have the right president in charge right now.

That he didn't fix the pentagon? Seems it's hard to fix something like that. Especially when both sides of the aisle, in congress, might as well show up to work wearing prom dresses.

I'm glad our President has Patraeus to depend upon.

And, I could care less about the "fun and games" played by the swivel chairs in DC. Wait until we put a better light on earmarks.

Posted by PVRK | September 9, 2007 12:10 PM

IS Adm. Fallon a Cut and Runner?

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 12:52 PM

Thanks, Uncle. I know who he is, he took Abizaid's place. I'm not so sure a guy in his position is supposed to be concerning himself with "political realities". We've got enough people with their fingers up in the Washington wind already. That was my point.

Of course, what do you expect from a Navy man?

just a joke...most of my friends are Marines.

Posted by PVRK2000 | September 9, 2007 1:39 PM

Bennett, you are so right. May be you should add Gen Peter Pace and First Sgt. Timothy Johnson to your list of people putting finger in the wind(refer to last paragraph of DAMIEN CAVE and STEPHEN FARRELL's article in NY Times today to know who is Timothy Johnson).

I am sure only people who know what is the right course are our C-in-C, Cheney,Bill Kristol and McCain (and I am wondering why he is doing so badly). Anyone who thinks otherwise is either cut and runners are don't know the ground realities of the tremndous progress we accomplised in August after Sunnis decided not fight Americans (BTW which can change any time)

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 2:15 PM

PVRK, it's best to provide a link if you are going to cite a particular newspaper article in support of your premise.

Since I didn't use the term "cut and runner" nor did I refer to the "tremndous (sic) progress we accomplised (sic) in August...", it's difficult to respond to your remarks.

But if Swabjockey is right and you wish only to be recognized, then your presence has been noted!
(thank you, I'll be here all week. Be sure to tip your waitress on the way out.)

Posted by MarkJ | September 9, 2007 2:42 PM

From today's headlines:

WASHINGTON - President Bush's war strategy is failing and the top military commander in Iraq is "dead flat wrong" for warning against major changes, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.

I guess we can all sleep more safely now that the "Clean and Articulate" Joe Biden, Certified Military Genius, Occasional Plagiarist, and Legend in His Own Mind, firmly ensconced deep within his comfy chair in Room 201, Russell Senate Office Building, has got his manicured finger squarely on the pulse of what's really going on in Iraq and, indeed, knows how to run a war better than any four-star, combat-tested general with a Ph.D.

Posted by skeptical | September 9, 2007 3:24 PM

Huh? Fallon is reported to have argued for some troop reductions "in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region" which I gather means Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, or all three (but not Saudi Arabia, from where our troops were kicked out at the start of the war, and where most of the 9/11 mass murderers are from).

Not as a political calculation in DC.

But I guess anyone who questions the concentrations of force, extended tours, and the well-informed choices of whom to back in Iraq must be a treasonous Cut-n-Runner. Wonder why Bush picked this fellow to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--just to undermine American security? Or because no one else wanted the job?

Posted by Tom W. | September 9, 2007 3:29 PM

I never hated politicians before.

Now, when I see how Democrats and some Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to ensure our defeat in Iraq just so that they can consolidate power, "hate" is much too mild a word.

I wish we had a president who would give press conferences in which he called out politicians by name and accused them of cowardice, disloyalty to the nation, and flagrant dishonesty. Lincoln had some congressmen put under house arrest. That's what I'd like to see.

They call Bush a liar, and he responds by saying what an honor it is to work with them. It makes him look like an idiot, which he's not.

His duty as commander-in-chief is to ruthlessly stamp out defeatism on the home front.

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 3:41 PM

"Wonder why Bush picked this fellow [Fallon] to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff..."

Note comments above yours. He's not the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Chairman is General Pace until 9/30. Admiral Mullen has been nominated to take his place.

If you don't even know what positions these men hold, it's hard to think you've thought through much else.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 9, 2007 3:44 PM

To borrow an analogy; while hitler's powers grew in Europe. Winston Churchill's lone voice rose above everyone's.

Today, up at InstaPundit, there's a link to an article about "How European voters are turning right." And, how that affects the fact that they must be doing it "in spite of America." Which is not true.

The losers on both continents seemed to have gambled big, on the wrong horse.

As by the time Bush leaves office? I think lots of people will hate to see him go. And, his popularity will increase. Because he stood steadfast. Against the menace.

There's a blurb I read, recently, as a matter of fact; that FDR had once told a cousin of his; Daisy Stuckley. In a letter. So there's a record. (Written during the 1930's. That he had just met Winston Churchill. And, he reminded FDR of LaGuardia.)

Today, few people know that Damon Runyan-eque famous mayor of New York City;

And, it's too bad that reputations fade.

We shouldn't be losing sight of Will Rogers, either.

While the current crop of communists, and their affirmative action sympathizers? Well, the Bonkeys were once a great party. But they fell into dis-repair. Can happen to ya, if handsome men refuse to take ya to the dance.

Posted by NahnCee | September 9, 2007 3:49 PM

I am sure only people who know what is the right course are our C-in-C, Cheney,Bill Kristol and McCain (and I am wondering why he is doing so badly).

Re: McCain, I will never vote for the man because (1) he took the side of terrorists and hurting their little feelings in the debate on torture, and (2) he was one of a small cabal of DC politicians who wrote in secret and then tried to cram down our throats that abomination of an amnesty for illegal aliens bill. To me, the name "McCain" is synonymous with pro-terrorist and pro-Mexican, even if he might not be actively anti-American.

Posted by Lightwave | September 9, 2007 4:11 PM

Tom W said:

I wish we had a president who would give press conferences in which he called out politicians by name and accused them of cowardice, disloyalty to the nation, and flagrant dishonesty. Lincoln had some congressmen put under house arrest. That's what I'd like to see.

Very much so. Andrew Card was on H&C this week and all but accused the Dems of treason. We need to start losing the "all but" part.

The President needs to sit down with certain members Congress and say "You're actively working towards a military defeat of America during a time of war. This will stop today."

I agree that we need to stop questioning the patriotism of some Democrats. There's no question some of them are traitors. When you are the Senate Majority Leader, or the Speaker of the House, and you stand before America and the world and proclaim that the war is lost, you need to be impeached on crimes of treason. Pure and simple.

There's a reason why Harry and Nancy have an approval rating of what, 16% now?

Posted by pk | September 9, 2007 4:19 PM

you wonder why the pentagon seems to be a bit on the tentative side. didn't pass the baton etc.

well in viet nam there was a bunch that decided never again. that is never again allow the messes that happened to happen again.

that group was in command during desert storm.

do you guys realize that desert storm was to all intents over and done with with about 29 KIA!!!

then they had a lucky hit with a missile on a chowhall and that added 100+ more.

well that bunch retired. and left the fivesided circus to the clinton administration.

during that period (the clintoons regiem) the real career killer was to be known as a "warrior" and so the aggressive death before dishonor types pretty well left the organization. also in that era a jimmy carter form of torture got real emphasis whereby a congressman or senator would call a hearing and torture the "get it done types" for several hours and somehow those types would leave government service rather than face that kind of stuff again.

the latest and best example of that type of loss is General Pace, says yes sir, no sir and aye aye sir. strong church and dosen't mind saying so. does not sway to the political winds.

got stabbed in the back by the politicians.

there is one other matter. that is, the military is duty bound to follow the orders from the commander in chief. if they get orders that allow them to excercise their skills, abilities, and wisdom in a certain project they will probably thunder on in their usual fashion and present the country with a victory that is a bit on the messy side but victory none the less.

if they get orders to be stupid THEN THEY ARE DUTY BOUND TO BE STUPID!!!!!

the state department has been adjusting their orders on the stupid side in various ways since 1947.

now can you understand why we have a "tenative" military that seems to have problems winning insurgencies.

they know precisely what to do about insurgencies. the politicians would die from the fallout.


Posted by onlineanalyst | September 9, 2007 5:08 PM

In response to Skeptical about the nationality of the 9/11 hijackers, I have taken the liberty to cut and paste a clarification by "daveinboca," who posted a number of informed (through experience and breadth of historical and language knowledge), factually-based comments at a Thursday thread: "Delusional Nation". Daveinboca responds to another commenter's point, which begins my citation.

""why we're not mad at Saudi Arabia (where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from)?"

"Actually, the fifteen "Saudi" hijackers were of Yemeni origin & descent. I was internal political affairs officer in Saudi and could give you a long dissertation on how the Treaty of Taif in 1930 took away almost all of Yemen [Prince Faisal conquered Sana, not that I expect you to know where that is] and left about three million Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia. During the '90-91 War, the enterprising Yemenis had ALL their businesses confiscated in Saudi because they were suspected of siding with Saddam in the invasion of Kuwait---a Fifth Column so to speak of quislings [I know this is close to the bone to Matt M, faced with his own identity problems]. So the Yemenis had, in addition to their irredentist drive to get their homeland turned back into Yemen, a desire to punish Saudi Arabia.

"Osama bin Laden is of Yemeni descent and can best be understood as a Yemeni nationalist, who wishes to punish the Saudis.

"Libtards are falling into his REAL trap, which is to blame the Saudis, because the hijackers were carrying SAG passports, for the 911 disaster.

"And advance his own agenda, which is to "liberate" the northern part of Yemen [Irish parallel, anyone?] from Saudi rule.

"This contains too many facts for the factually-challenged libtards to digest, as I noted above.

"While blaming Bush & Cheney for their success in liberating Afghanistan & turning Iraqi Sunnis against AQ, the libs, in their ceaseless imbecility and moral degeneration, are urging us to attack our ally Saudi Arabia.

"Juan Cole may be a fraud and an impostor, but he does have facts [which he usually ignores] in making an argument."

I learned something from that post that contradicts the accepted meme about the hijackers. Who knew?

Daveinboca has quite a bit more information scattered in that comment section, showing up the Leftist "progressives" talking points for the shallow rhetoric that it is.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 9, 2007 6:27 PM

There's a CBS poll out, saying 54% of Americans support Patreaus.

And, someone wrote a comment, up at Lucianne, who said "it's probably a stab at helping Katie Couric improve her ratings."

So CBS would do something to improve ratings, I said to myself. Yup. I answered. They sure would.

Sel-interest works as a tie-in.

I wonder if the Bonkeys will try to insult Patraeus. Or rely on their standard behaviors of trick questions, full of misquotes?

I'm sure I'm going to be following the news ONLY on the NET. Eliminates the garbage. And, the commercials.

Then? Well, it's the magical fall season, with early entry into the 2008 nomination process. Do you think Hillary will roll her eyes? More likely, she'll stick with pastels. And, a little bit of Botox.

Oh, I wonder if Larry Craig will sneak in to sit, too? He's entitled to sit, even according to his "intent" standards.

Too bad our senators don't just show up in prom dresses. They'd all look a lot happier. Except Hillary. She prefers pants. Keeps her thighness from chafing. Sometimes, I look at the crap we've elected, and I don't feel proud.

Posted by skeptical | September 9, 2007 6:35 PM


You're right, I got the names Fallon and Mullen mixed up. Nevertheless, the article argued for some troop reductions "in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region" which I still gather to be Iran, Afghanistan, and possibly Syria. The article the Cap'n Ed refers to reports his interest is in having some reserve force, not currying favor in Washington.

And I don't really expect we'll be going after Saudis as the White House is trying to put together a sizable weapons package for them. Given how helpful they've been in the war on terror, and facilitating the sealing of Iraqi boarders, it makes perfect sense.

Yes, round up those in Congress who think this war hasn't helped our security. Freedom and democracy stand in the balance; why just imprison them? Why bother with trials?

Posted by NahnCee | September 9, 2007 6:56 PM

onlineanalyst - interesting comment from daveinboca. I wonder how ole' dave would answer the following two follow-up questions: (1) why is Osama still considered to be a hero in Saudi Arabia, and (2) why is Saudi Arabia still one of the tippy-top highest exporters of stupid teenaged wannabe jihadists?

As long as the Kingdom is campaigning to bring their Gitmo terrorists home where they can be summarily released, as long as huge percentages of dead terrorists in Iraq turn out to be Saudi, and as long as we can literally see and track gazillions of petro-dollars pouring out of Saudi Arabia to fund these Wahhabi campaigns all over the world, I think that Yemen is a convenient red herring which should be ignored.

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 7:32 PM

"The article the Cap'n Ed refers to reports his interest is in having some reserve force, not currying favor in Washington."

I said nothing about "currying favor". Near the end of the article the reporters cite Fallon's desire to have Petraeus' report include a guideline for troop withdrawals as the result of "political realities" in Washington.

My comment about Fallon wasn't directed at the desirability (or not) of troop withdrawals per se, it was that the reporters tied his position to political realities and not battlefield necessities. I think there are plenty of people in the administration who should be focusing on the political realities, I don't know that the Centcom head should be one of them (as a military person).

Posted by skeptical | September 9, 2007 8:20 PM

Well, Bennett, I agree with you on that (who should be concerned about political realities vs. battlefield necessities), and on (in another comment thread) the relative importance of whom Dukakis endorses. I laughed out loud at that one.

I would think wanting some tactical maneuvering for the possibility of having troops available for other potential conflicts in or out of the region wouldn't be considered a treasonous offense, as it seems to be considered in this forum (and so many other conservative ones).

There may actually be genuine security reasons for considering redeploying troops that don't necessarily depend on the holder of those opinions to be guilty of treason. I don't see very many here grant that possibility.

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 8:56 PM

Actually I thought the part about needing troops for other conflicts was rather scary and hoped it was meant just as part of prudent planning.

Dukakis, hmmm...probably showing my age there (and, ummm...I voted for him! But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.)

Posted by Bennett | September 9, 2007 9:45 PM

"A well-known anti-war leader has gone public with the transcript of a private conference call that shows peace activists are exasperated with the Democratic congressional leadership and at a loss for a long-term strategy."

Maybe they should try a surge?

I thought this was interesting as it shows there is more than one "political reality" in Washington these days.

Posted by Frank Warner | September 9, 2007 10:38 PM

Anti-war, they aren't. Anti winning the war, they are.

Posted by KJBtruth | September 10, 2007 1:48 AM

I read the transcript:

check this gem out:

"The military is performing well, and that’s what Petraeus is going to say. The result of the military success is going to be wholly inconsistent with our values, and certainly unworthy of the sacrifice of our military families."

Congressman Jim Moran, VA

Say what?


Posted by KJBtruth | September 10, 2007 1:50 AM

Posted by davod | September 10, 2007 4:52 AM

"Huh? Fallon is reported to have argued for some troop reductions "in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region" which I gather means Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, or all three (but not Saudi Arabia, from where our troops were kicked out at the start of the war, and where most of the 9/11 mass murderers are from).

Not as a political calculation in DC."

Fallon has been in place for how long - a month?

The guy is a politician in uniform.

Posted by David M | September 10, 2007 11:53 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/10/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

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