Saturday, December 23, 2006


It almost sounds restful, this notion of a surge. Like a big wave picking you up and depositing you gently on the beach. Like the rush of a good drink or a great meal or a moment of sexual climax.

Sometimes surges can be risky. If the crowd surges people can be hurt. If your car engine surges control can be lost. And who has not had to go around resetting every electrical device in the house following a power surge?

So as notions go, a surge can be a slug with wheels. It can also be a euphemism as witness its current use by the White House. We are contemplating a surge of troops – estimates run as high as 30,000 – into Iraq. Since it’s only a surge, of course, it will ebb, perhaps disappear. When the tidal surge ebbs, the beach is clean. When the troop surge ebbs, Iraq will be clean – the insurgency gone.

Most surges, however, pretty much by definition, are momentary things. We can time a tidal surge, a crowd surge, and most electrical surges are gone before we can start the stopwatch.

But a troop surge? It takes a long time to get them ready to surge and then, once they’ve surged, they tend to get hurt or killed and have to be replaced; the surge, thus, more like a flow, an influx. Maybe an increase.

Yes, increase sounds more accurate – a troop increase. We did that in Vietnam quite often in the sixties and seventies.

Didn’t work.


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