Stephen M. Walt

Grim news from Baghdad

There is grim news from Baghdad: A twin suicide truck bombing of two Iraqi ministries has left over 130 dead and wounded more than 500. It is the largest such attack in all of 2009 and a reminder, unfortunately, that the oft-heralded “surge” was not the success that its architects and advocates like to claim.  ...

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There is grim news from Baghdad: A twin suicide truck bombing of two Iraqi ministries has left over 130 dead and wounded more than 500. It is the largest such attack in all of 2009 and a reminder, unfortunately, that the oft-heralded “surge” was not the success that its architects and advocates like to claim. 

As my FP colleague Tom Ricks noted in his book The Gamble, the “surge” was a partial tactical success that succeeded in bringing casualty levels down. (I say partial, because we still do not know how much of that success was due to the surge itself, and how much was due to changing circumstances within Iraq, most notably the ethnic separation created by earlier violence and the realignment of some key Sunni groups who were repelled by the wanton violence perpetrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq.) 

The larger strategic objective of the surge was political reconciliation among the main contending groups within Iraq. There have been a few encouraging signs in recent months, but yesterday’s bombing is another brutal indication that that goal remains unmet. Among other things, this means that pro-war pundits who invoke the purported “success” of the surge in Iraq in order to justify major troop increases in Afghanistan are not to be trusted, especially when they are the same geniuses who helped get us into Iraq in the first place.

Barack Obama inherited two losing wars from his incompetent predecessor.  If he’s not careful, he’ll still be fighting (and losing) both of them when his first term ends. And neither will be “Bush’s war” at that point; Obama will own them both by then. 

SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. @stephenwalt

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