Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot is one of the most vocal supporters of a neocon foreign policy. He says those who favor withdrawal from Iraq engage in “wishful thinking” and claims “there is copious evidence” that Iran is training al Qaeda. He said former CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon’s hesitation to bomb Iran “embolden[ed] the mullahs,” and claimed that the recently-revealed Pentagon propaganda program is simply “part and parcel of the daily grind of Washington journalism.”
He has also been a vociferous defender of the Iraq troop surge. Today, in an online debate on the surge, Boot points to the overall decrease in troop deaths as evidence of its success:
I could cite statistics to show how the “surge”—not only an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq but also a change in their strategy to emphasis classic counterinsurgency—has been paying off: Civilian deaths were down more than 80 percent and U.S. deaths down more than 60 percent between December 2006 and March 2008.
Just two days ago, however, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Boot argued that the recent increase in U.S. troop casualties showed the surge was working. Acknowledging that April was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since August (Boot says 52 soldiers died; in fact 54 did), Boot says the U.S. is approaching “the enemy’s defeat“:
More important, casualties cannot be looked at in a vacuum. A spike in casualties could be a sign that the enemy is gaining strength. Or it could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy’s defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future. The latter was certainly the case with the casualty spike during the summer of 2007. … Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood a sign of things getting worse before they get better.
The right wing won’t let anything — even dozens of troop deaths — stop them from cheerleading for the Iraq war. The New York Daily News’ Michael Yon picks up Boot’s talking points, answering the question whether the increase in deaths shows that the surge’s progress has been lost:
[H]ere’s my short answer: no. We are taking more casualties now, just as we did in the first part of 2007, because we have taken up the next crucial challenge of this war: confronting the Shia militias. … That means, for the next few months, expect more blood, casualties and grim images of war. This may lead to a shift in the political debate inside the United States and more calls for rapid withdrawal. But on the ground in Iraq, it’s a sign of progress.
In other words: Heads I win, tails you lose.