I'm hard-pressed to find an antonym to "surge", but perhaps our brilliantly eloquent President can help me. What do you call it when you promise to send 30,000 more troops but tell the enemy in advance how long they'll be staying? It's a surge of soldiers, to be sure, but it's a psychological retreat.
The problem is not troop numbers. When he declared on Tuesday, "These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011," the president has undercut the McChrystal plan and made success difficult to achieve.
There should be nothing wrong with an open-ended commitment to victory. In late 2006 and early 2007, when the Bush administration put the finishing touches on the strategy that would become the Iraq surge, Obama and many of his top aides questioned its wisdom. On July 19, 2007, for example, Obama declared, "Here's what we know. The surge has not worked." That a year later Obama scrubbed his criticism from his campaign website suggests that today he recognizes the positive impact of George W. Bush's decision. What Obama fails to understand, however, is that the surge is not only a military strategy, but a psychological one as well.
Victory over radical islamists won't be achieved by killing them all, it will be achieved by sapping their continuing will to fight. Surging troops but announcing our defeat in advance will result in more dead islamists while renewing the resolve of the movement as a whole. It's hard to see how that benefits America.