A few months ago, it was the received wisdom that Iraq was in the midst of a rapidly escalating civil war. That claim is no longer plausible. ~Michael Gerson
Well, actually, that was the “received wisdom” of many people last summer as well. Rather than “rapidly escalating” now, the civil war has reached a plateau for the moment and has settled into a steady stream of sectarian bloodletting. One wonders if Gerson reads the newspaper where his column appears. He claims that sectarian killings in Baghdad have declined by 50%. However, the Post reported on the draft GAO report yesterday:
The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. “While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced [bold mine-DL],” it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged [bold mine-DL]. It also finds that “the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved.”
What does all this tell us? That it may be the case that the new tactical plan had some decent success in certain areas, and that when the “surge” ends things will revert back to the way they had been before. Since the “surge” is definitely going to end at some point, its main accomplishment will have been to halt the worsening of the situation and buy time for the political track. As we all know, however, the political track is all but hopeless. Why, then, do optimistic war supporters continue to give the public false hope? We should give Gerson this much–at least he didn’t say we had turned a corner!
Update: Prof. Cole makes all the necessary points on this subject.