Saturday, December 8, 2007

Owning Up

President Bush never admits a mistake, but we bloggers have a higher standard: I admit it, I was wrong. In these early posts, I suggested that increasing our troop strength in Iraq by a mere 18% or so (the famous "surge") couldn't make that big a difference to conditions there. I was cautious enough to note that an untrained, armchair general such as myself might easily be missing something. Well, it seems that I was.

Security conditions in Iraq have improved. U.S. troop deaths, the indicator I follow most closely, are way down. We're still losing about 1 per day, which of course is not good, but it's way better than the 3-4 per day we were losing earlier in the year and at times last year. Iraqi deaths are at about 20-30 per day; again, not a happy statistic, but way down from the peak of over 100 per day. We can't be sure these improvements are due to the surge, but they at least coincided in time.

I'm not saying that I've changed my opinion on the war as a whole. Improvement in security conditions in Iraq does not appear to have been matched by much progress in political reconciliation. We're still pouring billions of dollars into the war every week. It's still true that the whole war was based on faulty intelligence, was appallingly mismanaged for years, has harmed our international standing, and hasn't acheived benefits worth its enormous costs.

But I was wrong to say that a modest change in our troop strength couldn't make a difference. Something has made a difference, and it's hard not to give at least some credit to the surge.

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