Diehl states that “the consensus in Washington” is that the surge in Iraq “rescued the United States from catastrophe in Iraq and made possible the withdrawal that Obama completed as president last year.” What consensus? Probably the only conclusion clear enough to warrant that word is that the surge contributed—along with other factors, most notably the Sunni Awakening—to a reduction in the violence in Iraq that peaked in 2006 and 2007. But the surge failed miserably to accomplish its principal declared objective, which was to facilitate political reconciliation among the contending Iraqi factions. Many of the defense intelligentsia in Washington who have been most keenly interested in the Iraq War argued against completion of the withdrawal because of the continued bitter internal conflict in Iraq that the surge failed to resolve.
The failure of the “surge” according to the Bush administration’s own standards has been apparent for years. There is a consensus among Iraq war dead-enders that the “surge” was a great success and that it “turned around” the war, which allows the advocates of the invasion to pretend that the Iraq war was not the colossal blunder and enormous crime that it certainly was. The “surge” at most helped to limit some of the damage done to Iraqi society by the previous four years of bloodshed and chaos. The fact that it took the better part of four years to recognize the horrible costs the war was inflicting on Iraqis is evidence that the “surge” was a classic example of “too little, too late.” It tells us all we need to know about them that McCain and his allies would actually cite this belated failure in support of their desire to do to Syria what was done to Iraq.