The Surge, A Prediction Revisited

On this first day of summer, Atrios reminds us of a story from earlier this year:

BAGHDAD, Jan 15 (Reuters) – A major U.S.-backed operation to curb militia violence in Baghdad will take at least six months and is probably the final chance for the increasingly shaky government, senior Iraqi political sources said.

Operations were expected to begin next week and last for as long as seven months, one source said.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and U.S. President George W. Bush have announced plans to reinforce the capital with thousands of Iraqi and U.S. troops to smother the sectarian violence that is pitching Iraq towards all-out civil war.

The top U.S. general in Iraq said on Monday some had already arrived.

Bush has said the operation will “in large part determine the outcome in Iraq” and senior Iraqi officials from the Shi’ite Islamist majority dominating the government said they believed it was a “last chance” that must be implemented thoroughly.

U.S. General George Casey warned on Monday not to expect instant results, saying he foresaw a “gradual evolution” over two to three months and then better security by the summer.

The political sources said that there were only some logistics to finalise, such as bringing additional troops into Baghdad. Officials wanted to ensure the broadest possible political support for the operation, including from radical Shi’ite leaders such as young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

OK. So what was the take-away? Some improvement by summer, the plan runs its course by six or seven months from a week after the article was written, say, by the end of July or August, and this was the last chance for success from the Iraqi perspective.

Its summer. Are we seeing some improvement? I don’t know. In some neighborhoods of Baghdad. Will the improvement remain? Who knows? And it has gotten worse in some other areas.

But one thing is certain… even the administration and the Generals have severely backpedaled on showing progress by then. As with everything else involving Iraq, this particular set of goalposts has already been moved a pretty good distance. And I don’t think its going out on a limb to say they will be moved again. And again.

Here’s what I wrote about the surge at about the same time:

But I think the bigger problem is something else. I hope GW pulls it off. If he won’t withdraw the troops, then I hope at least they manage to do something positive. But let’s be realistic. This is GW. Its not just the war that he fails at.. consider his other big promise from even earlier.

I sincerely hope he proves me wrong. Lives are stake. The lives of American troops, the lives of Iraqi troops and the lives of Iraqi civilians. There’s also a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere – that could be used to save lives in the US or abroad. If GW pulls it off, I’ll eat crow, and I’ll do it happily. But…

In six months, it will be evident to almost everything that GW has failed again. In two years, it will be evident even to Kristol. And then what? If Iraq is vital now, too vital to leave, why won’t it be too vital to leave then? Will Kristol feel we owe the troops Plan J or Plan K, both of which are virtually identical to Plans A through Plan I, differing only in how many years they get stop-lossed? Will he simply dust off this article and submit it again?

I was naive. Its not evident to everyone. There are people for whom it still isn’t evident that there were no WMDs in Iraq, or that Saddam was behind 9/11, after all. So I will be wrong about that. But given all the backpedaling, it seems its already evident to the administration and the generals that what we were told is not going to happen.