A study of the Pentagon’s satellite imagery concludes that ethnic cleansing — not last year’s surge of U.S. military forces — is the main factor in the reduction of violence in Iraq.
The report’s conclusion about the surge’s ineffectiveness are supported by many Iraq experts and international organizations who credit a population shift with the decline of sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad, Reuters reported.
Conducted by the University of California, the study analyzed the use of nighttime light across Baghdad and how it changed before, during and after the surge. It’s findings show only some neighborhoods have higher levels of output, suggesting the others had been ethnically cleansed before the surge.
“By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left,” geography professor John Agnew of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study, said in a statement.
“Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning,” said Agnew, who studies ethnic conflict.
In other words, ethnic violence did the job before American soldiers got the chance.
Sectarian violence between Baghdad’s neighborhoods has been documented by an independent commission that correlates with much of the report’s findings.
But FP Passport, a foreign policy blog, offered several caveats to its conclusion. For example, the blog asks why there were also security improvements outside the capital in places such as Anbar province?
Republican presidential nominee John McCain has long criticized his opponent Sen. Barack Obama for not having backed the surge, which McCain boasts as the single factor in the reduction of violence.
CNN Security Analyst Peter Bergen disagrees.
“…[B]oth the Democrats and the Republicans have been overemphasizing the surge. If it was just about the surge, the violence would be back up again because the surge is over.”
In a speech last July, McCain said, “It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan,” but one country has very little to do with the other, Slate.com reported.
A recent military analysis posits that a surge of troops in Afghanistan, where rising violence has drawn the attention of U.S. forces, will not succeed. The article contends U.S. military leaders do not adequately understand the country’s situation.
Which is exactly what the study of ethnic cleansing suggested about commanders in Iraq.
The first sentence of the University of California’s summary, written by co-author Thomas Gillespie, says this:
“Geographers and social scientists find it increasingly difficult to intervene in debates about vital matters of public interest, such as the Iraq war, because of the ideological polarization and lack of respect for empirical analysis that have afflicted US politics in recent years.“