The Failures Of The Surge

Larison responds to Reihan:

Harmonious and cosmopolitan [Baghdad] may not have been, but it was far more so in the “bad old days” than it has been since, which is really what is behind Klein’s point about the cleansing of sectarian enemies out of mixed neighbourhoods. Destructive sectarianism has restored some measure of peace in the same way that the burning of the Greek and Armenian quarters in Smyrna more or less ended the Greco-Turkish conflict, which is to say in the worst possible way.

The point isn’t that Baghdad has not become a multifaith enclave, but that it used to be something like that and was then turned into a highly segregated and divided city thanks to the mix of invasion, insecurity and sectarian-cum-democratic politics.  Hence, the nightmarish violence of 2006 has subsided into merely horrible because most of the potential victims of new sectarian violence have been pushed into new parts of the country, fled to Syria and Jordan or elsewhere or were killed in the first waves.  And this is dubbed success.

This was the point Klein was making here–the causes of reduced violence are many and some have nothing to do with the additional brigades, and some are the after-effects of the magnificent failure of the occupation to fulfill its obligations to secure the population of the country it ostensibly controlled.  Meanwhile, “surge” defenders would very much like to credit the change in tactics with most or all of the improvements, and then allow this reduction in violence to make it seem as if something fundamental had changed about a society in which armed gangs were butchering civilians just a year and a half ago for happening to be in the wrong district.  That is what I call an unpersuasive case.