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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Editing Petraeus

Clearly, the import of what Gen. Petraeus is saying here is not that the surge was unnecessary:

Petraeus is careful not to credit all the progress to the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. The sea change came last year from a series of movements now known as the Awakening, when Sunnis, organizing around traditional tribal leaders, decided to turn on Al Qaeda as "an organization that embraces an extremist ideology, employs indiscriminate violence, and practices oppressive social customs," in the general's words. One of those customs was a ban on smoking. "That was the turning point when they cut the fingers off the first person who was smoking," he jokes. "Can you imagine an Anbar sheik being told he can't smoke?" So would the Sunni Awakening have succeeded without the surge? Possibly, he concedes, but the surge came at that time and helped empower Sunni leaders, paying their fighters and backing them up on the streets. This is where Seneca the Younger comes in: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

There was also what Petraeus refers to as the "intellectual piece," a counterinsurgency strategy building on years of lessons learned the hard way, and intense coordination of military and diplomatic efforts. There was also, Petraeus says, "a civilian surge—[U.S. Ambassador Ryan] Crocker has seven ambassadors on his staff" and in the economic section of the embassy alone, staffing went from 130 to 200 this year with State Department augmentees; for the first time, all of the American Embassy's vacancies are filled, and with volunteers rather than draftees. And Iraqis have had an even bigger surge in their own security forces.
And here's Andrew Sullivan truncating the above to score a cheap political point:
Petraeus is careful not to credit all the progress to the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. The sea change came last year from a series of movements now known as the Awakening. […] So would the Sunni Awakening have succeeded without the surge? Possibly, he concedes.
I guess Sullivan ran out of pixels.

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