View Full Version : What really happened during the surge year 2007?

04-29-2012, 12:08 PM
Outlaw 09 commented on a recent SWJ article and I thought it was a valid point, that needed a thread:
There have been countless comments on countless articles in the last two years here at SWJ---when are we going to finally address in a clear and concise manner what really happened during the surge year 2007?

Only when there is an accurate understanding of just why things did or did not work in the surge phase can we understand and move forward without creating new myths and countless reputations.

I still maintain that we did not as a Force understand that in fact by Jan 2004 we were in a full scale Stage Two guerrilla war and in fact AQI created their own downfall by overreaching inside the Sunni communities-and not our "surge" which led AQI to be fully sidelined.

Maybe the past (only five years ago) is now becoming more interesting with such books---but as an institution the Force is not ready to address the success or failure of the surge years-too many reputations were made in those years. And---Who wants to throw stones at reputations as it is definitely not good for ones' career.


I shall have a look for threads that may have covered the Surge.

Note some months ago I closed virtually all the OEF threads, but cut & paste will still work.

04-29-2012, 12:36 PM
Previous threads:

Troop ‘Surge’ Took Place Amid Doubt and Debate, last update 08-31-2008 (x1 post):http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=5959

Six Months That Could Change Iraq, last update 12-29-2007 (x4 posts):http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4610

The Success of the Surge, a SWJ article:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4592

Six Questions for Doug Macgregor on Iraq and the Surge (x17 posts) last update:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4400

The Surge: First Fruits (x17 posts) last update 05-22-2007:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=2606

Keys to a Successful Surge (x11 posts) last update 03-14-2007:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=2137

Thoughts on a possible "surge" in Iraq (x33 posts) last update 01-14-2007:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=1681

Inside the Surge: 1-5 Cavalry in Ameriyah, SWJ article 10-27-2008:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=6217

The Battle of Baghdad (maybe not Surge discussion) (x44 posts) 04-17-2008 last update:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=1131

Our Troops Did Not Fail in 2006 (x16 posts) last update 04-07-2008:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=4782

Could Someone Please Explain the "Surge Strategy" to Me (x24 posts) 07-08-2007 last update:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=3362

04-29-2012, 01:18 PM
The question you pose seems to ask for a scientific clarity that is not possible to achieve - in highly complex situations like this, it's impossible to establish exactly what the driving forces behind social change were. When there are multiple motivations and social forces competing, the histories that are written after the fact usually say much more about our need to create explanations rather than to pin down true cause and effect. We can often agree that one or a more factors were highly likely to have had strong correlation with the results - not all resides eternally within shades of gray. But these are still theories, not fact, in a world where we may not even be able to explain ourselves why we made certain decisions among various competing incentives, threats, and motivations. Bottom line is this - usually correlation is the best we can establish, and anyone who declares authoritatively what explained the results of the Surge is either overconfident, ignorant, or looking to push an agenda. To say that one cause was the predominant one - for any position - in complex social situations says more about the biases of the author that it does about what drove the actual situation. It's also why the history of even long past events is constantly changing as new evidence emerges, and new historians bring their own experiences and biases to the data set, usually choosing the data that confirms their previously held beliefs.

04-29-2012, 01:22 PM

My guess: The Iraqis finished much of what's their business only and the foreigners claimed to have been successful.

04-29-2012, 01:48 PM
Iraq after us. (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/416/iraq-after-us) Act 1: what just happened? (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/416/iraq-after-us?act=1) | This American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/)

To understand where we are today in Iraq, we tell the story of one Iraqi, Saad Oraibi Ghaffouri Al-Obeidi, also known as Abu Abed—a man who fought alongside the US during the surge, and is now in exile—and what he saw, and was part of, over seven years of the war. (28 minutes) [LINK] (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/416/iraq-after-us?act=1)

04-29-2012, 06:21 PM
That whole TAL episode is excellent. The segment afterwards talking about the continuing dysfunction of the Diyala provincial leadership in Baquba was quite revealing as well, along with being funny as hell.

Bob's World
04-29-2012, 07:39 PM
It's not "what" happened that is in need of serious reconsideration, so much as WHY things happened as they did.

Many factors were in play, so nothing was simply a result of one action or another, but my assessment is that the primary "lessons learned" taken away by the US were heavily weighted in favor of our official understanding of what insurgency is, and by our desire to see certain results as being linked to our actions.

My take is that many of the Sunni leaders were tired of AQ's UW campaign and the guerrilla fighters AQ brought in from elsewhere, and were ready to cut a deal to secure their own futures in the emerging governance of their homeland. A significant amount of cash was reportedly paid out to help facilitate that decision to shift focus.

We see similar hopeful bias of perspective today in Afghanistan, where insurgent fighters have been locally suppressed in certain areas through "clear" operations. Any insurgency can be locally and temporarily suppressed by a superior force, but we delude ourselves when we think of those areas as being "cleared" of the insurgents, as if they did not primarily emerge from the populaces that live in those very places. We talk about needing to stay engaged to sustain our gains, but in fact, did we really gain anything, or did we just suppress the current fighters in an area while deepening the actual resistance insurgency at the same time?

We will never know the "truth" of these things, but we would be better served as we move forward if we were willing to consider a range of possible reasons things played the way they did. This will give us greater flexibility in efforts to sustain stability, and also help avoid us painting to small of a doctrinal box that future efforts will be shaped by.

04-30-2012, 07:23 AM
We will never know the "truth" of these things, but we would be better served as we move forward if we were willing to consider a range of possible reasons things played the way they did. This will give us greater flexibility in efforts to sustain stability, and also help avoid us painting to small of a doctrinal box that future efforts will be shaped by.

Not sure I agree.

If you don't why things happened you will not know what worked.

What sort of doctrine would it be if it was said... "we did this in Iraq but we don't know if it worked but nevertheless you should consider it as an option in future interventions".

05-09-2012, 11:22 AM
Emma Sky's interview via SWJ has this short comment on the surge:
The change in the approach of the US military during the Surge helped persuade Iraqis to shift their strategic calculus - and reinforced these positive developments. The Surge was a key factor – but it was not the only factor that brought down the violence in Iraq. It is important to recognize the impact of US military tactics, but to put this within a strategic perspective.


Captured here as her perspective as a political adviser in OEF is important.

08-02-2012, 04:14 PM
International Security, Summer 2012: Testing the Surge: Why Did Violence Decline in Iraq in 2007? (http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/IS3701_testingthesurge.pdf)

Why did violence decline in Iraq in 2007? Many policymakers and scholars credit the “surge,” or the program of U.S. reinforcements and doctrinal changes that began in January 2007. Others cite the voluntary insurgent standdowns of the Sunni Awakening or say that the violence had simply run its course with the end of a wave of sectarian cleansing; still others credit an interaction between the surge and the Awakening. The difference matters for policy and scholarship, yet this debate has not moved from hypothesis to test. An assessment of the competing claims based on recently declassified data on violence at local levels and information gathered from seventy structured interviews with coalition participants finds little support for the cleansing or Awakening theses. Instead, a synergistic interaction between the surge and the Awakening was required for violence to drop as quickly and widely as it did: both were necessary; neither was sufficient. U.S. policy thus played an important role in reducing the violence in Iraq in 2007, but Iraq provides no evidence that similar methods will produce similar results elsewhere without local equivalents of the Sunni Awakening.

08-02-2012, 07:24 PM
The study Jed linked to is very well done and very persuasive.