Reuel Marc Gerecht, who has at times been a serious guy, tries to sell the surge to me on two grounds. The grounds that it might work and the grounds that, if it works, Democrats will look bad. But there are, of course, the usual problems:
The Sunni insurgency will likely cease when the Sunnis, who have been addicted to power and the perception of the Shiites as a God-ordained underclass, know in their hearts that they cannot win against the Shiites, that continued fighting will only make their situation worse. Thanks in part to the ferocity of vengeful Shiite militias, we are getting there. And the growing realization in Iraq, and among Western oil companies, that substantial oil deposits exist in the Sunni Arab zone could prove helpful in assuaging Sunni fears about starving in the new Iraq. Even for Iraqi Sunnis, the signs for a better future are increasing. A livable democratic arrangement is there if Sunni Arabs choose to take it. One thing ought to be clear: Without President Bush's surge, the only thing Iraq's Sunnis can look forward to is war, death, and exile. If there are potentially influential moderates among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, the "surge" is their last chance to change the rejectionist temperament and tactics of the community.
So the surge deserves to be supported....It isn't inconsistent to scorch Bush for his failures--and still to argue that the American blood we will spill in Iraq in the surge is worth the possibility of success.
This is frustrating every time. I started reading this article with the hope that contained in it somewhere was the otherwise-absent list of reasons that the surge strategy has a decent chance of working. It is instead a list of assertions offered without any arguments and, as such, it amounts to being nothing more than the latest iteration of the tautological point that if we don't conduct the surge, we lose now. This point, unfortunately, doesn't in any way make the surge a viable plan. And don't forget either that for this method of argumentation to have any impact it must be accompanied by a healthy dose of sliming withdrawal advocates.
Do thoughtful Democrats really believe that the Middle East, America's long fight against Sunni jihadism, and our standing in the world against potential aggressors and bullies will be improved by a precipitous and mandated departure from Mesopotamia? The Democratic party is beginning to sound like an echo chamber for Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser for the most inept and calamitous Democratic administration of modern times....
If the U.S. military can change the reality and spirit of Baghdad, the rest of Iraq will change too. Contrary to the despair of so many, internal Iraqi politics will probably be the easiest part of this campaign. In the next few months, of course, things could go to hell. One suicide bomber killing the right Shiite VIPs could threaten all. Yet with Petraeus, Maliki, and Sistani in charge, things may work out. If they do, we can only hope that by the time they do, the leadership of the Democratic party will have ceased to have anything in common with those Sunni Arabs who have always wanted the new Iraq to fail.
I really do understand the temptation--when struggling with a meritless argument--to call my beliefs morally superior and call my antagonists Osama Bin Laden. I do. But I refrain from doing things like that because on the one hand it's deeply, deeply cowardly, and on the other, selfish hand, I worry that when the issue is settled, I won't be treated seriously ever again. I'd like to think the punditocracy worked in a similar way, but that would be naive.