Monday, February 05, 2007

Soldiers have no urge to surge

As is typically the case, now that Bush has made clear troop escalation in Baghdad is inevitiable, the military brass and the officer class are talking it up as a potential success but the troops who actually have to patrol the streets and face the IEDs every day aren't so optimistic. They're pretty much saying what all of us who oppose the "surge" have been thinking right along.
Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily. The soldiers cited a variety of reasons, including incompetence or corruption among Iraqi troops, the complexities of Iraq's sectarian violence and the lack of Iraqi public support, a cornerstone of counterinsurgency warfare.

"They can keep sending more and more troops over here, but until the people here start working with us, it's not going to change," said Sgt. Chance Oswalt, 22, of Tulsa, Okla.
And therein lies the biggest problem. We didn't win the hearts and minds of the people and this escalation is unlikely to do any lasting good. It might work in the short term but as soon as we declare mission accomplished, the insurgents -- however they're to be defined -- will come back and the violence will begin all over again.

The grunts on the ground report that they feel caught in the middle of a fight they don't understand. They wake up not knowing who the heck they're supposed to fighting against, or for, that day. And as one soldier points out, the Sunni and Shia have been feuding for a thousand years. All the troops in the world can't change that in a couple of months, or perhaps ever. The only question remaining is how many more Americans is our president willing to sacrifice for his own vanity on this lost cause?
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