‘Surge’ And ‘Escalation’ Are Not Synonyms
Let’s be very specific about what we mean when we describe the troop increase that President Obama is expected to announce tonight. I see the headline of this Wall Street Journal piece reads:
U.S. Opts for Limited Surge
Two things. First, a “surge” is not the same thing as an “escalation.” Here’s how to tell the difference. A “surge” is a one-time deployment of additional troops. If the new troops complete their tours, go home, and troop levels return to what they were before those troops deployed, then we have a surge. If, on the other hand, other troops relieve those troops, keeping the total troop contribution at the higher level, then we have an escalation. The available evidence suggests that what the Obama administration envisions is an escalation, paired with an ultimate time-horizon for ending the war, *beyond *any combat brigade’s year-long tour. That’s, for instance, what Gen. Stanley McChrystal was quoted yesterday as envisioning. We won’t know for sure until Obama’s West Point speech tonight.
Second, and this is a judgment call, but how is this a “limited” troop increase? The Journal says that the troop increase will total around 30,000. The Washington Post’s headline says 34,000. If either figure is correct, that means Obama will order tonight a *greater *troop increase into Afghanistan than President Bush ordered into Iraq in 2007 for the iconic troop surge. What’s more, there are about 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan today, versus about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in January 2007, so relative to the existing base total of troops, this Afghanistan troop increase is way bigger than the Iraq one. Agree with it or disagree with it, there’s nothing “limited” about it.