Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard notes that Major General John Batiste, a general who spoke out against Donald Rumsfeld, and who, until recently, was a Board Member of VoteVets.org now thinks the Surge is working.
the counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq. It is showing promise of success and, if continued, will provide the Iraqi government the opportunities it desperately needs to stabilize its country.
It should be natural for a person to change his mind with the passage of time or the emergence of new information. All of us do it all the time. The tendency to regard the changes in position of General Sanchez, for example, or General Bastite in this case as "conversions" treats empirical questions as if they were articles of faith. They are not.
In the case of Iraq I think the Surge organically grew out of collective developments in the ground forces. It wasn't some plant taken from an alien garden and grafted onto the Army and the Marines. Without detracting a whit from the unique contributions of General Petraeus and his staff, I believe historians will find that the Surge was the expression of the ground force's developing doctrine and not some kind of Castor Oil that had to be poured reluctantly down its throat by a revolutionary leadership.
Without the changes and leadership associated with the Surge Iraq might well have been lost. It was not as if nothing new had happened. But the Surge was also built on a lot that was old; the Iraqi political structure which, however imperfect, was nevertheless elected by a population who showed (though it now chic to deride their purple fingers) great courage. It was founded on Iraqi Security Forces who were already being trained by US trainors. It was built on intelligence networks which, as everyone knows, take years to build. It was built most of all, I think, on the collective experience of US officers and NCOs, many of whom were on their second and some on their third tours. The previous tours were not valueless. They were infinitely valuable in providing experience, cultural knowledge, language fluency.
In other words, it's possible that the Surge could come only when it did. Might it have come earlier with better leadership? Perhaps. Might it never have come at all? Certainly. It's an open question whether another General other than Petraeus may have come upon an equivalent or even better strategy. However it is a certainty that the Surge would never have come at all if proposals, so numerous at the end of 2006, to withdraw US forces precipitately, had been adopted. There are often many paths to victory; but surrender is infallibly the certain path to defeat.
I think it will also be shown that the season of al-Qaeda's greatest "victories" -- the months when it was detonating two or three carbombs a week and when the Mahdi Army was countering with its retail reprisals -- was really the season of its downfall. That's when al-Qaeda, to use a current term, "jumped the shark". Terrorist forces use fear to maintain control of the population. The fact that al-Qaeda was practically hosing down Iraqi society with blood will be regarded in retrospect, I think, not as a sign that they were winning, but as an indicator that they were losing control.
But to return to the earlier theme of treating battlefield situations not as articles of religion but as empirical situations, we must always remember that change is relentless. Just as the pre-Surge situation was not a "defeat" set in stone, the Surge itself is not a victory foreordained. We are in the driver's seat right now but we can still throw it away. Nothing prevents -- or should prevent -- Generals Batiste or Sanchez from flipping yet again. What we should think about Iraq "depends"; and it always depends on the situation.