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Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 23:59 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 23:59 | SYDNEY

Face it, Hugh, the surge worked

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11 February 2009 14:22

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

No one could know if the surge would work because that is the nature of war. But I believed it had a fair chance of working and that to have taken any other course would have multiplied the error of being in Iraq in the first place. So it was gratifying to see Hugh White almost admit that quite possibly, maybe, with a few qualifications, he was wrong about the surge. For that, I personally and sincerely thank him, because I am part of that war. Many others are in the deniers camp but have now moved on to apply their lack of experience of war-among-the-people to Afghanistan.

To anyone who is still sceptical about the period 2007-08 and the effect of the surge, Linda Robinson’s Tell Me How This Ends might be of some value. The current success (yes I will call it success because it is success – perhaps not yet final victory) in Iraq comes from many sources, but most of them are related directly or indirectly to the US remaining on the scene.

When everyone said 'Go', Bush said 'Stay', and here is something like the right number of troops. This indicated to all Iraqis that the US was still serious, and the Sunnis were then prepared to compromise, or as Hugh said, change their political calculations. US Generalship and the courage of the soldiers was also more than commendable.

No one will compromise if they think they have a chance to win, and the Sunnis finally realised they would never again occupy their previous privileged position in Iraq because it looked like the US was showing resolve. Moqtada was beaten both on the battlefield by the US and also by more conservative clerics, and finally by the Iraqi military. Al Qaeda was, quite simply, killed or captured. The Iraqi military was mildly capable because the US stayed, and teams of nine US soldiers were in each Iraqi battalion.

Of course there are many ways for Iraq to go bad, but we must be almost at the stage where, even given our error in being in Iraq in the first place, we can start to blame the Iraqis if things do go bad.

What I cannot agree with is that one reason for the US to keep troops in Iraq over the last six years was to contain Iran. There was no indication of that when I served with the US in that war (capabilities, deployment positions, plans, stocks), it is not logical in a military sense because US forces in Iraq have been hostage to Iran rather than containing Iran, and it is beyond belief that the US will wage a land war against Iran mounted out of Iraq. A relatively stable and relatively free Iraq, whose majority Shi’as are not beholden to Iran, will serve in some way to contain Iran but this will happen without a continuing presence of US troops.

But Hugh, I sincerely thank you once again, and I will never ever mention Iraq as long as I live!

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