In the Arena

Murtha Surges

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Well, John Murtha has just come back from Iraq and says the “surge is working.” I think that’s still premature. Clearly, the situation on the ground has improved–but we have little sense of the long-term motivations or strategies of the key players. Baghdad is held by the Sadrists, who are lying low for now. Basra is uncontrolled chaos, with Sadr and Hakim families, plus Fadhila, in a low-grade, long-term struggle for power. There is now a relatively coherent Sunni militia–or potential militia of 70,000 fighters–that we have established in Anbar. There is still the explosive question of who controls Kirkuk. George Packer addresses the situation on the ground and raises some important questions here.

More immediately, the question is: what do Democrats do now that their anti-war leader has taken this position?
We seem to be beating the Salafist terrorists in Iraq, which is terrific news, but the Bush Administration’s policies remain irresponsible.
With the extremist threat much diminished, the question of withdrawals is more pressing than ever. After all, What’s the mission? Is it more important to have our excellent Army serve as referees in the Iraqi civil war, or redeploy some troops and resources into Afghanistan–or, more important, to send troops and equipment back home where they can be rested and repaired? These are executive decisions that Bush has abdicated. These are the issues that Democrats should continue to raise.

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