Friday, August 15, 2008
Did the Surge Work?
When I was a little boy, I loved watching the "Incredible Hulk"; however, I hadn't quite mastered the art of pronunciation and instead called it the "Bedda Hulk". Mom said I used to run out of the room during the transformation from Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno yelling, "He's hulkin', momma, he's hulkin'." A few moments later I would creep back into the room, checking to see if the scary part was over.What does this have to do with the surge? Well, over the past few weeks, the effectiveness of last year's surge in troops has been a big issue in the presidential elections and I feel that it's important to look at all the facts. Just like Dr. David Banner used to get angry and transform into a green, lethal killing machine, I too have my fits of rage and become the "Incredible Political Scientist." (Are you scared yet???) If there's anything that I've learned through my time in graduate school, it's that in matters of cause and effect, you cannot determine with 100% certainty that there is only one cause. In this case, one cannot accurately deduce that the surge in troops is the sole cause for decrease in violence in Iraq. Dr. Colin Krahl published an article in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs stating that there are several other potential reasons for the regression of violence here, arguing "that Al Qaeda in Iraq had become more brutal and indiscriminate....declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq....demanded brides for its soldiers, enforced harsh fundamentalist social norms, and cut into tribal smuggling revenues." Such actions were not well received by many in the country and support for AQI's cause began to dissipate. These issues, along with many others, should be considered when determining the efficacy of sending more troops into a combat zone. Up front, I'm not here to persuade anyone to endorse a political candidate, stance, or opinion on the matter, only to encourage readers to look at the broader picture and not just listen to the 30 second soundbite from either campaign. This is important because many are suggesting the same response to the tumultuous conditions in Afghanistan, saying that by increasing the number of troops there, we are likely to see the same kind of success. WRONG! While it is possible for this to occur, one has to look at the other variables at play in the country to determine what measures to take.Did the surge help quell the violence in Iraq? Yes. How much did it help? Not sure. That's something even the greatest statisticians in the world probably couldn't even answer, and for the very reasons stated above. Such rationale is like saying that Ronald Reagan single handedly won the Cold War (which I've actually had someone say me!). You cannot prove such a case because there are too many variables that must be considered. Now that I've turned back into my little "butter bar" lieutenant uniform, I hope you understand the point I'm trying to make, especially when you being determining the veracity of any politician's comments in the news. Take care and sorry for the delay in posting.