As described by its own architects, the Kagan “surge” was meant to provide a window of security so that the Iraqi factions can work out their differences. I guess in Kaganland a few months of light chatting is all it takes to smooth out the factional divide that is tearing Iraq apart, but then people like me aren’t in charge of American policy. Kagan is, so let’s at least look at Iraq on Kagan’s terms.
In the last few days the Iraqi parliament has taken a monthlong recess without accomplishing anything. The steady drumbeat of violence and death goes on unabated. The main Sunni bloc has walked out of Maliki’s government. Reconstruction of the country has largely failed, leaving average Iraqis dramatically worse off than before we invaded.
There should be no doubt that David Petraeus will follow orders from the top and deliver a glowing assessment of our glorious war effort. Petraeus and Peter Pace both know that “commanders on the ground” only last as long as they keep delivering what the president wants. The only mystery is, given that the “surge” has failed to contain violence in Iraq, has not made Iraqi lives better and has not stemmed the figurative and (amazingly) literal civil war inside Maliki’s government, whether Saint Petraeus’s handpicked post hoc metrics will have anything to do with the original goals that Kagan used to justify his “surge.”
It goes without saying that even a country as disasterfied as Iraq must have something going well. That’s why respectable people establish criteria in advance that will determine whether or not an experiment worked. If all of us scientists could do our experiments and then carefully sift and manipulate our data to find the most appealing possible interpretation, huzzah! Every experiment would work. The Kagan experiment set out some fairly clear pass/fail criteria and then failed to meet them, but like a poor first-year grad student Bush can’t accept that his experiments don’t work so he’ll throw in a few numbers from column 2, switch the labels on a couple of figures and hope that nobody asks too many questions.