Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The second surge that isn't really a surge at all

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sit down. Hold on to your hats. Ready?

Stewart Powell of Hearst Newspapers is reporting -- for example, here at the San Francisco Chronicle -- that there could soon be a second surge in Iraq:

The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 -- a record-high number -- by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

Really. Nice try, Hearst Newspapers -- at least you're not advocating war in Cuba and the Philippines -- but the results of your "analysis" are rather misleading (if not yellow).

Here's the key point: There will only a second surge if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades. There may indeed be overlap, but any such overlap would only be temporary (unless the Pentagon keeps the departing brigades on active duty in Iraq, which would mean they wouldn't be departing brigades at all. True, tours of duty are being extended -- we know that -- but would enough of them be extended to support a second, and more significant, surge? One wonders. And how would Congress, Republicans included, respond if there actually were such a second surge that involved keeping the brigades on active duty that are meant to come home? Even if Bush were to push for such a surge, well beyond the current one, there is simply no way Congress would allow it to happen without pushing back far more firmly that it has already.

I am cynical enough -- i.e., I have paid enough attention to reality -- to think the worst when it comes to Bush's (thoroughly incompetent, and yet consistently arrogant) handling of the war, but on this I agree with Kevin Drum: "[T]he Pentagon routinely overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades. And when they do, it always produces a temporary increase of troop levels that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two. And since the surge has increased the base number of troops, it's likely that the temporary increase this time around will be larger than past ones." Which is to say, "I don't quite get the fuss... It seems like it's going to be the same kind of short-lived enlargement that we've seen several times in the past."

Maybe I'm wrong, but at this point I see no reason to get too worked up about any possible second surge.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home