Not surprisingly, I agree with Andrew Bacevich:
Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor — no doubt cause for celebration at AEI, although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush’s successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift. Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism. Certainly, the next president will not find in Iraq a useful template to be applied in Iran or Syria or Pakistan.
According to the war’s most fervent proponents, Bush’s critics have become so “invested in defeat” that they cannot see the progress being made on the ground. Yet something similar might be said of those who remain so passionately invested in a futile war’s perpetuation. They are unable to see that, surge or no surge, the Iraq war remains an egregious strategic blunder that persistence will only compound.
The case for the surge, and the war more generally, has long been bound up in a failure to think coherently about purposes and objectives. If, instead, you throw a bunch of troops into the mix, have them do a bunch of stuff, see what happens, and then define in retrospect whatever it is they’re accomplishing as the purpose of the mission, then, sure, new tactics are working. When our old tactics were aimed at having our troops wander around the desert and kill armed Sunni Arabs, we succeeded in doing that. Switch tactics to helping to train and equip these very same people, and now we’re succeeding at doing that. But what are we trying to accompish?