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Another New York Times writer says Surge is working!

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  • Another New York Times writer says Surge is working!

    Yet another reporter from New York Times says the Surge seems to be working and more time should be given. It's an interview of John Burns from the New York Times by the conservative Hugh Hewitt for Townhall.com.

    The entire interview is very long, and contains some good points about Iran and Afghanistan, besides Iraq. It's a good read. This John Burns chap seems to know what he's talking about (and it's not just because I happen to agree with him!)

    You can see the full interview transcript here: http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Trans...c-6611d80faba4

    Here are some nuggets I find interesting:

    HH: Well, there are three things I want to cover with you today, Mr. Burns. Where are we now in Iraq, in your view? Secondly, where Iraq might be in a couple of years, depending on a couple of developments that the United States might enact? And then finally, in hindsight, what we did right and what we did wrong over the last four years. But let’s start with what you see in Baghdad today. Is the surge working?

    JB: I think there’s no doubt that those extra 30,000 American troops are making a difference. They’re definitely making a difference in Baghdad. Some of the crucial indicators of the war, metrics as the American command calls them, have moved in a positive direction from the American, and dare I say the Iraqi point of view, fewer car bombs, fewer bombs in general, lower levels of civilian casualties, quite remarkably lower levels of civilian casualties. And add in what they call the Baghdad belts, that’s to say the approaches to Baghdad, particularly in Diyala Province to the northeast, to in the area south of Baghdad in Babil Province, and to the west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, there’s no doubt that al Qaeda has taken something of a beating.
    HH: Speaking more broadly now, in the American higher command, is there optimism that the surge, given enough time, will bring the kind of stability to Iraq that we all hope it achieves?

    JB: You know, optimism is a word which is rarely used around here. The word they would use is realism. You have to look at what the plan is. The plan is that with the surge, aimed primarily at al Qaeda, who are responsible for most of the spectacular attacks, the major suicide bombings, for example, that have driven the sectarian warfare here, the belief is, or the hope is, that with the surge, they can knock al Qaeda back, they can clear areas which have been virtually sanctuaries for al Qaeda, northeast, south, west and northwest of Baghdad, and in Baghdad itself, and then have Iraqi troops move in behind them. The problem here is time. How much time does the U.S. military have now, according to the American political timetable, to accomplish this? I think most generals would say, indeed have said, most serving current generals here have said that a drawdown, which took American troops from the 160,00 level they’re at now quickly down to 100,000 or 80,000 over the next, shall we say, year to eighteen months, that’s too fast. If you do that, I think they would say, though they don’t put it quite this frankly, that this war will be lost for sure. Given a little bit more time, they think that it is realistic to think that the Iraqi forces can move in behind them, and can take over the principal responsibilities for the war. The problem is, of course, that American generals have been saying this now for four years, and as we know, the Congress is beginning to run out of patience with that. But I think that they have a good plan now, at least if there is any plan that could save the situation here, any plan that could bring a reasonably successful end to the American enterprise here, it’s probably the plan they have right now.
    HH: Do you believe that, John Burns, that the war is lost?

    JB: No, I don’t, actually.
    I think the war is close to lost, but I don’t think that all hope is extinguished, and I do think, as do many of my colleagues in the media here, that an accelerated early withdrawal, something which reduced American troops, even if they were placed in large bases out in the desert to, say, something like 60-80,000 over a period of six to nine months, and in effect, leaving the fighting in the cities and the approaches to the cities to the Iraqis, I think the result of that would, in effect, be a rapid, a rapid progress towards an all-out civil war. And the people who are urging that kind of a drawdown, I think, have to take that into account.
    HH: In his recent speech in Charleston, President Bush argued that to withdraw would be to empower al Qaeda in Anbar Province, and to allow them to set up a base there. What do you make of that projection, John Burns?

    JB: Well, I think it’s self-evident. Whatever we may make of the original intent of coming here, if the United States did not have a problem with Islamic extremism in Iraq before 2003, it certainly does now. You only have to look at the pronouncements of Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahiri, his deputy, to see that they regard Iraq now as being, if you will, the front line of the Islamic militant battle against the West. And so if American troops were withdrawn, I think that there would be a very serious risk that large parts of this country will fall under the sway of al Qaeda linked groups.
    HH: Was there any way, is it possible, do you think on that reflection, that however hard the last four years have been, was there any other way to get past Saddam? Or was it, and is there a possibility in your mind that it will all be worth it in the end?

    JB: I guess the judgment on that will probably be something like 20-25 years out from now.

    HH: Yeah.

    JB: …the judgment that the Iraqi people will have to make. Right now, the remarkable thing is not that so many Iraqis look back on Saddam’s time with a sense of yearning, but that so many other Iraqis, namely Shiite Iraqis and Kurdish Iraqis, who were his principal victims, continue to believe that his overthrow was for the best. What history’s judgment about this will be extremely difficult to tell. But one thing we can be sure of is that it will have cost enormous numbers of lives, and it makes you wonder, looking back to the period of 2003 and before…
    Last edited by Ogukuo72; 31 Jul 07, 03:15.

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