Jan 212008
Authors: Mary Ackerson

Democrats are living in a fairy tale. Or at least that’s what William Kristol would have you believe.

On Jan. 14, the famed neoconservative and editor of the Weekly Standard ran a column in the New York Times criticizing this year’s Democratic presidential candidates for failing to view, as he does, this past summer’s Iraq troop surge as a success.

And there is plenty of evidence to support his claim.

Since the “surge operation” sent 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last June, there has been a significant reduction in both Iraqi citizen and U.S. military deaths. The most drastic change was recorded by the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count this past September, when Iraqi civilian deaths were down 77 percent compared to the year before. The number of deaths has continued to drop over the past four months.

Republicans such as Kristol have interpreted these statistics as proof of a significant move in the direction toward success in the Iraq War, a view not shared by many Democrats.

While the improving statistics may very well mean the surge has led us down the path of victory, it is still too early to tell. The decrease in violence may be merely a lull in attacks.

A letter to the editor in response to Kristol’s column argued the positive statistics don’t necessarily reveal that the surge is working.

“History tells us that when our forces increase their tempo in Iraq, the local militias either go underground for a while, or move to another area. In the long term, the surge will not work because the Iraqi people do not want the United States and its minions running their country,” Jerry Wallingford, the author, said.

Even some Iraqi political leaders question the long-term effectiveness of the surge.

Saleh al-Mutlak, Sunni leader of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front political party told the Washington Post, “. (the decrease in violence) is temporary because the United States cannot maintain this number of troops in the areas where they are in. And, if they do so, there will be no normal life in these areas.”

The surge can only be successful as long as the troops stay in Iraq; and while they remain, Iraq is prevented from becoming self-sufficient, and its people from leading normal lives. Iraq’s democracy needs to have the freedom to develop more autonomously, and at the pace its government deems most beneficial.

In the event that Republicans are right and current trends do indicate that we are on a path toward victory, they have every right to be pleased. No one can dispute that the war finally coming to an end is extremely good news.

However, we cannot forget that the war against terrorism extends beyond Iraq’s borders, and winning the war in Iraq does not resolve the imminent regional war.

Another point is undeniable: Republicans cannot use success now as grounds to regain credibility for past defective judgments about the war.

If victory is finally in sight, the fact that it resulted from a large surge in troop numbers only portrays the Bush administration’s failings more starkly.

The need for a much larger troop deployment has been argued by many since before the war began, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell. If success is now being obtained because of this action, this reveals a huge error on the administration’s part in waiting over four years to heed the advice.

The surge’s success has already added undue positive clout to the Republican presidential candidates’ campaigns, while having adverse effects on the Democratic candidates’ platform for troop withdrawal.

However, it is not the Democrats whom the surge’s results should be haunting, and when it fails to be the solution Iraq needs, Republicans will not be the ones we turn to for alternative policy suggestions.

Mary Ackerson is a senior political science major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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