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Fading Lights Tell Story of Sectarian Strife
Surge "Like Closing Stable Door after the Horse Had Gone": UCLA Researcher
11/12/2008 2:28 PM ET
Iraq subset, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Linescan System imagery from the F16 satellite.
Iraq subset, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Operational Linescan System imagery from the F16 satellite.

Data gathered by satellite over Baghdad suggest that America's troop surge in Iraq "has had no observable effect, except insofar as it has helped to provide a seal of approval for a process of ethno-sectarian neighborhood homogenization that is now largely achieved,” UCLA researchers wrote in a little-noticed report that came out last month.

Prof. John Agnew, co-author of the recent study that uses light emissions from the Iraqi capital to evaluate the effectiveness of the 2007 "surge" in US forces, speaks with the online Guernica magazine to discuss his team's methods and findings.

In the interview, Agnew says:

The surge was a bit like closing the stable door after the horse had gone. It did impose a kind of Pax Americana, but only after all the violence had essentially done it for them. There was already a kind of diminution in inter-sectarian violence. And they came and built concrete walls between neighborhoods and that has had a pacifying effect. There’s no doubt about that. But in a way, the violence was already going down before the surge started.

Anyway, counterinsurgency, from what I gather, means you’re putting your troops out there in the population, and you expect an increase in casualties. I mean, you expect to be actively involved in combat in a much more vigorous way than when you’re doing a kind of whack-the-mole strategy, which they were doing prior to the surge. But as we know U.S. military casualties have gone down—and why? Well, because there was a lot less violence. A lot less fighting.

The original article, published in September, received little media play, Guernica notes, coming out just after the announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate and the global financial crisis that toppled major investment houses and seized up global markets.

Read Agnew's Guernica interview here, and see the original article here, published in the academic journal Environment and Planning.

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