ANDREW SULLIVAN WONDERS WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE SURGE: I thought I’d been fairly straightforward, but sometimes my thoughts, scattered across a lot of short posts, come across as more cryptic than I realize, so I appreciate being prodded to pull them together in one place. As I’ve said before, I don’t think the number of troops is nearly as important as what we’re doing with them, and that’s not so clear. There’s room for optimism that we’re going to take a more aggressive line against insurgents in Iraq, and against Muqtada Al-Sadr in particular. There’s also some reason to think we’re putting the screws to Iran. On the other hand, I’ve been disappointed a number of times by the Bush Administration’s inexplicable unwillingness to deal with Iran’s fomenting of insurgency — it’s really a proxy war — in Iraq, and with its waffling on Sadr. You win a war by making it too unpleasant for the other guy to keep fighting. The additional troops, such as they are, won’t make a difference in that; only a change in approach will. I don’t have a clear sense of whether we’ll follow through.
I’m not as disappointed in Bush as, say, Bill Quick, but I’m disappointed. As I’ve noted in the past, the Iraq invasion was supposed to be the first step in transforming the region, but once we got there we seemed to lose all momentum, and all interesting in putting pressure on Iran and Syria. As Talleyrand said, you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.
I also think that Bush’s loss of support on the war stems from the loss of visible forward motion. The casualties per se aren’t the problem (we’ve lost fewer troops in nearly four years than we were expected to lose in the initial push to Baghdad), so much as the sense that we’re taking casualties and nothing is happening. This impatience is perhaps unfortunate, but it’s a well-known characteristic in the Pentagon (where people were talking about the “three year rule” on support for wars back in 2003) and the Bush Administration doesn’t seem to have had a strategy for dealing with it.
When I made these observations back in this post, I got an email from an anonymous but informed reader who said that the lack of progress is more apparent than real. TM Lutas agreed. Even if so, the Bush Administration has not paid adequate attention to the problem of maintaining political support at home.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend Mohammed’s take as worth reading, especially as he’s a lot closer to the situation than I am. Ditto for Michael Yon and the troops, who seem to think that things remain very winnable. In fact, as Yon notes, the troops seem most worried about morale on the home front. And things are very winnable, I think, but in order to win, you have to fight to win.
UPDATE: Heh: “Once Instapundit gets done explaining to Andrew Sullivan what Instapundit’s position is on the surge, perhaps he can tackle the thorny question of telling Andrew Sullivan what Andrew Sullivan’s position on the surge might be.” Nope. Not going there. A man’s gotta know his limitations.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Some of Ace’s commenters say that the surge is one of the war issues on which Andrew has been consistent, so I apologize if the link above is unfair. I wouldn’t want to misrepresent Andrew’s position on troops, as has been done to me in the past, but I don’t actually read Andrew much any more, and so haven’t kept up.