To Surge or Not to Surge, That Is Not Really the Question

With all the dangers festering and building around the globe currently, how does one writing a new column on terrorism, intelligence and national security choose a starting topic?

Let’s first grab some context.

For readers landing on this column for the first time… and that, theoretically, should be a strikingly high percentage since this is my first column for, the intent of this column is to examine the events, issues, people and dynamics that fall into the broad categories of security, terrorism, intelligence and homeland defense. It’s a big remit, but nothing that can’t be mashed and tamped into several somewhat coherent paragraphs on a regular basis.

Here’s a consumer advisory for all People's Weekly Briefing newcomers… to the degree that I’ve got an opinion on the topic at hand, it will come into play. I think it fair to state right now that I don’t believe in the concept of objectivity in the media. The editorial process by definition is a subjective one…we’re better served by a transparent media that clearly outlines their own particular agenda and stance.

We can then hope that the general public makes an effort of sorts to gather news from various angles to form a well-rounded opinion. Frankly, I don’t believe the general public makes that sort of an effort. But that’s just my opinion.

To provide further context, and in an effort to avoid choosing today’s topic, my background consists of over a decade and a half in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operations Directorate, followed by several years working and building companies in the private intelligence and risk management industry. Essentially, I’ve transferred the skills I developed in the CIA to the private sector, where I work with large multinationals to overthrow countries and eventually create a one- world government. Strike that last sentence, it is patently false. Or is it?

Moving on, I had planned on dissecting the Iraq portion of the president’s State of the Union speech for today’s column. Unfortunately, upwards of 197,324 pundits, bloggers, journalists and think-tank analysts beat me to the punch. Had I been the only one to decide on this topic, I would have commented on the uniquely American tendency to distill amazingly complex issues burdened with centuries of history and cultural differences into very basic questions suitable for politicians and polling. In this case, are you pro-Surge or anti-Surge?

If you are pro-Surge, you may be labeled as either an administration lackey, a naïve optimist or in a positive light, someone who supports the troops and believes we need to give the Iraqi politicians, religious leaders, military and police more time to build a unified front and stable infrastructure.

Identifying yourself as anti-Surge leaves you open to labeling as a fatalist, a defeatist or perhaps someone who supports the troops and feels that we have sacrificed enough in a noble effort to bring a better life to a country that seems unable or unwilling to stabilize. Either way, we’ve managed to reduce the most critical current problem facing the United States into an easily digested yes or no question. To Surge or not to Surge.

I believe the Surge is necessary and is the only viable option at this time. It’s the least-worst option, in a list of decidedly bad scenarios. It has the possibility of buying time… of preventing a further slide into sectarian bloodshed and chaos. Perhaps that added time will allow for a political and diplomatic solution to surface. Past counterinsurgency efforts indicate that the additional troops will be able to reduce the violence in targeted areas and allow for a renewed focus on reconstruction efforts.

Perhaps that will allow the population to develop some sense of faith and loyalty to the fledgling government. Perhaps that in turn will embolden the government, military and general population to stand up to and demand an end to the senseless bombings, kidnappings and reprisal killings.

Unfortunately, (and this is painful to admit given that I am an optimist and self professed pro-Surge-anista) I suspect it won’t work in the long term. Frankly, the Iraqis aren’t buying what we’re selling. We’re asking them to fight, suffer and die in the name of democracy… which at best is a theoretical concept for the vast majority of the population. There’s no history of democracy as Americans know it in Modern Iraq... at best there were a few decades of imposed British parliamentary democracy during the 1920s through the late 1950s.

Iraq is all about the religious sects and tribal affiliations. The average Iraqi has no frame of reference when we as Americans wax eloquently about the strengths and values of Democracy, even though planting the flag of Democracy is what this is all about. In simple terms, we want this more than they do because they don’t really know what “this” is. But again, that’s just my opinion.

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Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, and appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker also serves as a script consultant and advisor within the entertainment industry, lending his technical expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," and the major motion pictures "Proof of Life" and "Spy Games."

Mike Baker is the Co-Founder of Diligence LLC, a leading global intelligence, security and risk management firm. Prior to starting Diligence, Mike spent over a decade and half with the CIA as a covert field operations officer. He is a regular contributor in the national and international media on intelligence, security, counterterrorism and political issues. He appears regularly on Fox News, as well as other major media outlets.