Following on A.J.'s post about the gossamer threads upon which the surgeniks continue to hang their claims of victory, Spencer Ackerman has an article on the ironclad ties that bind us to our new Iraqi Sunni "allies":

One of the signature achievements of the surge, according to General David Petraeus and the White House, has been the creation of so-called "Concerned Local Citizens" groups—that is, bands of tribal fighters, mostly Sunni and including many former insurgents, who have agreed to take U.S. cash (and in some cases weaponry) if they pledge to fight al-Qaeda. The groups, also known as Awakening Councils, currently stand at 80,000 fighters, 80 percent of which are Sunni. They’re outside the chain of command of the regular Iraqi security forces. And the U.S. military, for months, has relied on the councils for information, including targeting information, about who the U.S. should go after in the name of fighting al-Qaeda.

But many of these groups consist of former insurgents. Many have an agenda that isn’t the U.S.’s. How does the U.S. really know that these groups are truly targeting al-Qaeda, instead of manipulating the U.S. military?

According to Rear Admiral Greg Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq, it’s simple. Trust.

That's touching. Interestingly, in most contexts, paying an armed gang not to attack you is called "extortion." In Iraq, it's called "the plan."

As Andrew Bacevich noted in his latest demolition of surge propaganda, while the surge has failed to achieve any of the political goals set out for it in Iraq, it has, at least as far as its proponents are concerned, achieved the arguably more important political goals set out for it here in the U.S.:

In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won't be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place. As AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly has acknowledged with admirable candor, "part of the purpose of the surge was to redefine the Washington narrative," thereby deflecting calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. Hawks who had pooh-poohed the risks of invasion now portrayed the risks of withdrawal as too awful to contemplate. But a prerequisite to perpetuating the war -- and leaving it to the next president -- was to get Iraq off the front pages and out of the nightly news. At least in this context, the surge qualifies as a masterstroke.

I don't think the word "admirable" belongs anywhere near a strategy in which young men and women are required to die in order to save the legacies and reputations of the cranks who got us into this mess in the first place. I can think of a few other, better words.

--Matthew Duss

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