In the Arena

Surge Numbers Game

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A couple of points on the so-called surge: Ana’s right that an increase of 20,000 is not what Gen. Keane and the serious surgers are asking for. She’s also right that it probably won’t be enough. (It’s hard to imagine what would be enough at this point). But the numbers game isn’t as important as the change in tactics. A lot of our troops already based near Baghdad will be deployed differently, and more dangerously. Instead of living in the huge forward operating bases (FOBs) like Victory and Falcon, they will be spending most of their time at small patrol bases in Baghdad’s neighborhoods and they will be walking beats, like cops, 24/7…This will undoubtedly lead to higher casualty rates. The question is, will it lead to a quieter Baghdad? And another question: How long will our troops have to be there for this to change Iraq’s violent sectarian culture–if it can work at all? Serious surgers tell me…ten years . That seems more a glacier than a surge. You think the President will try to sell that inconvenient truth to the public Wednesday night?
I’ll have more to say about why this strategy is (a) so difficult and (b) the best possible chance for success in counterinsurgency situations in the print mag this week. –Joe Klein