It should probably come as no surprise that President Bush is entertaining the idea that the way to solve the crisis he’s created in Iraq is to send more troops to the Middle East, as part of a so-called “surge” strategy.

After all, the Bush Administration is the one that imagined the way to respond to deficits was to go on a spending spree and run up more deficits. So why wouldn’t they think that the way to end a war is by dispatching more troops to the front?

The “surge” strategy is ridiculous on its face. And that is precisely why it should be feared; the Bush White House has a penchant for rejecting practical solutions in order to pursue patently absurd pipe dreams. The President is clearly intrigued. He told the Washington Post the idea was among several that he considered “viable.” That comment came in the context of a broader discussion about expanding the size of the military in order to pursure the war on terror.

There’s not much doubt at this point that the Administration is laying the groundwork for a “surge” strategy in Iraq. And that’s scary.

It would be hard to find a more absurd proposal than this one–unless someone attempts to dust off the old “weapons of mass destruction” or “Saddam-Osama connection” bromides.

No one who knows anything about the quagmire in Iraq seriously entertains the notion that a “surge” in troop strength in Iraq–no matter how substantial–will stabilize the country.

At best, a significant increase in US troop numbers might create temporary stability in a few targeted regions of Iraq. But that will simply move the troubles elsewhere, as has happened in the past. Iraq is a big country, and the history of the past three and a half years is one of a highly mobile and flexible insurgency that, as insurgencies always have, flows in the direction of openings.

No matter how many US troops might be dispatched to Iraq, there will not be enough to close all of the openings for mischief and misdeeds–or even most of them.

Even the most optimistic observers understand that the United States does not have enough troops to stabilize the whole of Iraq. Assuming that the US had that capacity, however, the “surge” strategy still would not work, as it relies on the false premise that, once a measure of stability is imposed on the country by foreign troops, the Iraqis will step up to the task of maintaining that stability. Unfortunately, the circumstance of the Iraqi army is such that there would be no time in the foreseeable future when local forces could be expected to take charge of the country.

In other words, the “surge” strategy is a recipe for disaster. It won’t cure what ails Iraq. It will only force more US troops into the role of an occupying force–guaranteeing the additional casualties that go with such a deployment.

The way to begin solving the problems in Iraq is to give responsibility for the country to Iraqis who, if they so choose, can seek assistance from their neighbors in the region–an enterprise that might merit US financial, but certainly not military, support.

As long as US troops continue to occupy Iraq, the current chaos will continue–and no “surge” in troop strength is going to alter that reality in a consequential or long-term way.

Only when US troops are withdrawn will Iraq move to the next stage in its development. That stage is unlikely to be pretty. It will involve jockeying for position by different religious and ethnic groupings, and the likelihood is that the violence that we now see will continue. Only one thing will change: The Iraqis will be in charge of their destiny. And that change is, of course, the essential one.

That’s why the vast majority of Iraqis tell pollsters that the US occupying forces should leave.

It is time to put aside fantasies, and fantastical strategies, and recognize that the next chapter in Iraq’s history will only begin when foreign military forces leave.

Strategists in Washington should be developing a plan for US troops to surge homeward, not pushing a scheme to send more young men and women into a hopeless–and deadly–quagmire.


John Nichols’ new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal, Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into the intentions of the founders and embraced by activists for its groundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability. After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone political writer Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, “John Nichols’ nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, The Genius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less with the particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and instead combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the “heroic medicine” that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'”

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