Revisiting the Surge, cont.
By Taylor Marvin
Stephen Walt has more on drawing the wrong lessons from the surge:
“Petraeus & Co. are trying to pull off something similar here, and it may well be the best that can be made of a bad situation. But there is a subtle, long-term dangerin this sort of sleight-of-hand. If we tell ourselves we won and then get out, we will end up learning the wrong lessons from the whole experience. By portraying the Iraqi and Afghan “surges” as victories, we fool ourselves into thinking that this sort of war is something we are good at fighting, that the benefits of doing so are worth the costs, and that all it takes to win this sort of war is the right commander, the right weapons, and the right Field Manual. And if we indulge in this familiar form of historical amnesia, we’ll be more likely to make similar errors down the road.”
This doesn’t mean that counterinsurgency as a whole is unworkable, or that the entire Afghan project is automatically doomed to failure. But we need to remember just how hard this type of mission is, and how fighting long counterinsurgency campaigns at great cost in far off countries almost never works out to be in the net interests of the United States.