Never Fast Enough

From Steve Chapman’s column in the Chicago Tribune last Friday, Surging along to a stalemate:

The surge, it’s easy to forget, was not intended merely to improve security, but to facilitate political progress. But of the various legislative actions Bush demanded of the Iraqi government a year ago, the only one it has passed is a new law to allow former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party back in government.

To be honest, I guess this is really a backhanded admission that the “surge” is working. Basically “The security situation is better than it was before the surge, but the other goals haven’t been reached.

Notice that I wrote ‘the “surge” is working‘, not ‘the “surge” has worked.’ Big difference, and it’s the difference that Chapman seems to not understand. The additional troops “surged” into Iraq didn’t arrive until summer, and they spent the next four months actually doing what they were sent for. Some of those missions are still underway. But because the post-“surge” phase hasn’t been completed successfully, the “surge” is a failure?

Now, it may still end in failure, of course. But Chapman doesn’t seem inclined to see the final score before declaring winners and losers. 2007 was spent getting the security situation back under control and 2008 will be spent starting to get the political process back on track while working to solidify the security gains of 2007. The politics couldn’t move very far until the security improved, and that’s just beginning to show fruit.

Now that we see Chapman thinks that the improved security situation isn’t enough to warrant claims of success, it would be interesting to see what he thought about the security situation before the “surge” had had time to address it. Oh, we can. In September, Chapman began a column with

Gen. David Petraeus says the Iraq war is going well, and I believe him. I believe him the way I believe the coach of a perennial football doormat who, every August, assures fans he expects a winning season. Coaches don’t get paid to admit they’re bound to lose, and generals who are tasked with military missions don’t get paid to announce that they can’t get the job done.

In September Chapman wrote that security job couldn’t be done. Four months later he writes that even though the security job is on the way to being done, the political issues haven’t been addressed. It will be interesting to see what he writes four or six or ten months from now, won’t it? Hopefully, things go well in Iraq and he writes that even though the political issues are being resolved, things are still bad because US troops haven’t left yet.

In fact, he seems to be hedging his bets when he writes this near the end of today’s column:

One key gauge of success for the administration’s strategy is whether Iraqis will be able to take over running their own country. By that measure, it’s a failure. Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi says the government won’t be able to take full responsibility for internal security until 2012 — or to handle outside threats until 2018 or 2020.

So now it appears that he’s laying the groundwork for a claim of “If US troops are providing security for Iraq, Iraqis aren’t running their own country.” It would be interesting to know what Chapman thought of West Germany during the Cold War (World War III) or South Korea today.

Critics (and many supporters) simply refuse to acknowledge the amount of time this is going to take.