Bridge On The River Euphrates

The much-vaunted surge has made Iraq safer. But more boots in the desert is not the only reason security has improved. As U.S. forces get ready to leave, we have to face some inconvenient political realities.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2008

Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 384 pp., $25.00.

Peter W. Galbraith, Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America's Enemies (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 224 pp., $23.00.

Linda Robinson, Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008), 432 pp., $27.95.


IN LATE 2006, as the National Security Council (NSC) debated the need for the troop escalation and change in Iraq policy commonly known as the "surge," they didn't call it that. They called it the "bridge." It had become agonizingly clear that President Bush's plan to have U.S. forces "stand down" as the Iraqis "stood up" had failed. Iraq had fallen into sectarian civil war, and the hastily rebuilt Iraqi security forces (ISF) were not only incapable of providing order, but were in many instances agents of chaos themselves. The goal of the surge was to have U.S. forces take the lead in providing population security in Baghdad, buying time for political accord and strengthening the ISF. The surge, in short, was never meant to be a permanent state, but rather a bridge back to the original goal: transitioning security responsibilities to the Iraqis.

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