David Petraeus has been lionized as arguably the greatest contemporary American General. A Caesar for our times. Although, highly knowledgeable in Counter Insurgency (COIN) strategies and tactics, did the surge, the strategy for which he gained much of his notoriety actually work?
The debatable, yet transitory, success of the surge was only one of many factors accountable for its short-term positive outcome. Several factors, not directly related to the surge, were significant.
1. Sunni awakening preceded the surge. The Sunni awakening was the result of conflict between Abu-al-Sittar and Al-Qaeda (AQI) in Iraq. Originally reportedly partners in criminal activities, Al-Qaeda began taking over sources of smuggling revenue resulting in a rift resulting in al-Sittar starting the awakening with the objective of ridding Iraq of AQI.
2. Muqtada al-Sadr stood down his army prior to the surge.
3. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was a problem created by our invasion of Iraq. To consider the surge a success at the cost of thousands of lives and numerous severe injuries to Americans and Iraqis seems pathetically ironic. Making the problem and then needing to solve it.
4. Al-Qaeda may have purposely left Iraq, having trained their "soldiers", moving them to more valuable targets especially, Pakistan and Afghanistan, in a strategy to destabilize/control these countries to potentially gain access to nuclear weapons.
5. Bribery of Sunni insurgents has decreased violence...at what current and future cost? Are we repeating our mistakes made in Afghanistan?
6. Iraqi society was ghettoized with religious enclaves decreasing violent interactions creating a segmented society-an arid ground to grow a "developing democracy".
7. Dora and its near demise even during the surge is an indicator of the boiling ethnic conflicts...a mere scratch beneath the surface of Iraqi society.
8. Emigration had significantly decreased the Iraqi population reducing risk.
9. Iran has gained influence in Iraq since surge.
10. Arrogance of this unilaterally initiated policy is potentially antagonistic to the government and people of Iraq.
11. Political reconstruction has not effectively progressed since the surge that was supposes to create a peaceful platform to do so.
12. The surge did not result in an Iraqi government friendly to the US. In fact, there are coalitions in the Iraqi government that are unfriendly to the US as well as desiring to establish an Islamic fundamentalist regime.
In the short term it is arguable that the surge was the significant factor in the Iraqi war. In the long term, its effects are even today uncertain, disputable.
Thus is a reputation built in significant part on a fallacy, on delusion?