Tom Friedman says don’t send more troops to Afghanistan, because there are no positive trends to build on, like the Anbar Awakening before the surge in Iraq. Yet back in 2007, Friedman condemned the surge precisely because there was no progress to build on:
Now President Bush wants a “surge” of more U.S. troops to Baghdad, in one last attempt to bring order. Whenever I hear this surge idea, I think of a couple who recently got married but the marriage was never very solid. Then one day they say to each other, “Hey, let’s have a baby, that will bring us together.” It never works…
Adding more troops makes sense only if it’s to buy more time for positive trends that have already begun to appear on the horizon. I don’t see them.
More troops alone will not suffice. The only tiny hope left of transforming Iraq is if its leaders have to pay the full retail price of their passions and we have to pay the full retail price of our oil.
Right now everyone in Iraq is having their cake and eating it — at our expense. We have to change that.
The Sunnis, who started this whole murderous cycle, participate in the government, negotiate with us and also indulge the suicide bombers and the insurgents. The Shiites collaborate with us, run their own retaliatory death squads and dabble with Iran. The Saudis tell us we can’t leave, but their mosques and charities funnel Sunni suicide bombers to Iraq and dollars to insurgents. Iran pushes its Iraqi Shiite allies to grab more power, while helping others kill U.S. troops. Ditto Syria.
No surge can work in Iraq unless we have a “moral surge,” a counternihilism strategy that delegitimizes suicide bombers. The most important restraints are cultural, societal and religious. It takes a village — but the Arab-Muslim village today is largely silent. The best are indifferent or intimidated; the worst quietly applaud the Sunnis who kill Shiites.
We need to root for General Petraeus to succeed…But how will General Petraeus or Congress judge if the surge is working? It may be obvious, but it may not be…Remember, enough U.S. troops can quiet any neighborhood for a while. The real test is whether a self-sustaining Iraqi army and political consensus are being put in place that can hold after we leave.
For those who’d like to check my work (or check on Friedman themselves), his old columns are available on his NYT homepage, going back to 1995. They are text searchable.