The recent congressional elections - which turned over control of both houses to the Democrats - were largely a referendum on President Bush, and much of the vote reflected public dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. Most Americans see the US effort as failing, and believe that some different course of action must be taken. Most favour withdrawing forces soon, if not immediately. The report of the Iraq Study Group is widely seen as a formal confirmation of US failure in Iraq.
What the surge would do, however, is put more American troops in harm's way, further undercut US forces' morale, and risk further alienation of elements of the Iraqi populace. American casualties would probably rise, at least temporarily, as more troops are on the streets; we saw this when the brigade from Alaska was extended and sent into Baghdad last summer. And even if the increased troop presence initially intimidates or frustrates the contending militias, it won't be long before they find ways to work around the obstacles to movement and neighbourhood searches, if they are still intent on pursuing the conflict. All of this is not much of an endorsement for a troop surge that will impose real pain on the already overstretched US forces.
The truth is that, however brutal the fighting in Iraq for our troops, the underlying problems are political. Vicious ethnic cleansing is under way right under the noses of our troops, as various factions fight for power and survival. In this environment security is unlikely to come from smothering the struggle with a blanket of forces - it cannot be smothered easily, for additional US efforts can stir additional resistance - but rather from more effective action to resolve the struggle at the political level. And the real danger of the troop surge is that it undercuts the urgency for the political effort. A new US ambassador might help, but, more fundamentally, the US and its allies need to proceed from a different approach within the region. The neocons' vision has failed.
So does John Edwards:
"George Bush's expected decision to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate the war in Iraq is a grave mistake.
"The new Congress must intercede to stop Bush from stubbornly sticking to the same failed course in Iraq and refuse to authorize funding for an escalation of troops. They should make it clear to the President that he will not get any money to put more of our troops in harm's way until he provides a plan to turn responsibility of Iraq over to the Iraqi people and to ultimately leave Iraq. George Bush wants to dig a deeper hole, but we need to climb out.
"The situation in Iraq demands a political solution — the Iraqi people must take responsibility for their country. Escalating the war in Iraq, which our own generals agree won't help, sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, to the region, and the world. In order to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving and immediately withdraw 40–50,000 troops. Once the U.S. starts leaving, the Iraqi people and other regional powers will be forced to step up and engage in the search for a political solution that can bring an end to sectarian violence and allow reconstruction to take hold, creating — as should have been done long ago — Iraqi jobs for Iraqis."
Not to mention Carl Levin:
“An escalation of American troops is a flawed strategy for two reasons: it implies that there is a military solution to the violence when what’s needed is a political solution among the Iraqi leaders, and it suggests that the future of Iraq is in our hands not theirs.
“More promises by the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future and more statements by the President on the need for doing so are no substitute for U.S. actions to force political compromises by the Iraqis. The President did not set benchmarks for the Iraqis that have hard deadlines and clear consequences for failure.
“The President's long-overdue words are that we are ending the open-ended commitment to Iraq, but the reality is that he is sending the opposite message to the Iraqis by putting more American military men and women in the middle of Iraqi sectarian violence.
Of course, John McCain thinks the surge is a great idea.
With so many Americans saying the surge is the wrong way to go, is it any wonder Rasmussen says Bush's approval rating is the lowest it's ever been?