Austin Bay explains the significance of the real surge strategy in Iraq:
“More troops” isn’t the most significant aspect of the military “surge” in Iraq.
Since at least fall 2003, an increase of 5,000 to 10,000 troops over a three-month window has been an option for coalition forces. For example, deploying a “ready brigade” from the 82nd Airborne Division would quickly bump troop strength in the region by around 4,000 soldiers. On several occasions (spring 2004, for example), commanders have accelerating planned reinforcements and delayed pending unit withdrawals.
Adding 20,000 troops to Iraq in a five- to six-month window is a significant increase but in and of itself not decisive, and certainly not a “new strategy.”
The relentless, focused targeting of Shia and Sunni extremist organizations is a far more important feature of what Iraqis are calling “the new security plan” than more U.S. troops. The coalition’s effort to better integrate the economic and political development “lines of operation” with security operations could have greater long-term effects.
Attacks on Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army have been the most public examples of “focused targeting.” Though Sadr’s allies deny it, Iraqi and U.S. government spokesmen still claim that Sadr has left Iraq for Iran. Sadr bolted because the new offensive is indeed striking his militia.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the new security plan is the increased aggressiveness of the Iraqi Army as it conducts counterinsurgent operations. The Iraqi military defeat of the cultist “Soldiers of Heaven” planned attack on Najaf in late January provides a dramatic example. With coalition backup, Iraqi forces launched a spoiling attack and killed or captured several hundred militants.
Maliki’s national reconciliation program remains the key Iraqi political endeavor. That program began well before “the new security plan,” but no security plan will succeed unless reconciliation occurs.
This sounds like it could very well work, which explains why so many of the anti-war leftists are so vociferously against it. Any success at all in Iraq leaves them looking completely incompetent and untrustworthy. In other words, the reality of who they really are would be exposed to the American people.
Hat tip: Instapundit