The Meaning of "The Surge"

080611-M-9943H-011

Jim Henley unpacks a cliché:

The pretended meaning is, The US increased troop strength in Iraq for a period of time beginning in 2007. The actual meaning is, the US increased troop strength WHILE ramping up a program to pay off Sunni resistance leaders WHILE Iraq’s warring ethno-religious factions finished completely remaking Iraq’s demographic patterns, owing to tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of exiled and internally displaced, WHILE the US turned the capital into a warren of barricades. The net result of all those changes has been a less obtrusively violent Iraq for the time being, and the whole arrangement is "The Surge" in practice, but the cheerleaders talk as if it was all due to The Surge in pretense. Meanwhile Iraq’s "calm" would count as calamity almost anywhere on earth but Darfur or Zimbabwe.

Quite so. Understanding the true nature of the business doesn't undermine the reality of the achievement, but the achievement is to make somewhat more feasible a misguided, costly, and immoral scheme for imposing a semi-permanent semi-colonial status on Iraq. But rather than selling the public on the whole disreputable salami, we're supposed to swallow it in slices. First, we need to give "the surge" a try, so we can't leave this year. Now, since "the surge" is working, we need to stay another year. Then the year after that, there'll be another reason. When conditions are worsening that is the reason to stay (see 2005, 2006) and when conditions are improving that's the reason to stay.

DoD photo by Cpl. Tyler Hill, U.S. Marine Corps.

Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Politics

Just In