In “The Surge Fallacy,” published in the September issue of The Atlantic, Peter Beinart writes yet one more essay that misses the point about the Surge and what American political leaders should learn about the use of military force. So far, the Iraq War represents two strategic blunders. The first, committed by the George W. Bush administration, was to believe that war could impose democracy quickly, easily and cheaply. (The two prime examples of war replacing authoritative governments with democracies, Germany and Japan, were anything but quick and far from a light footprint.) The second, committed by the Obama administration, was to believe that withdrawing from a war was equivalent to ending a war.Conceptually, both administrations made the same mistake: Neither really understood that fighting ends when an enemy admits defeat, and a war ends when one side’s political aim is achieved.The Bush administration thought the war ended once the military secured Baghdad, the Iraqi army was defeated, and Saddam Hussein was ousted from power. Hence the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln. What followed the end of the battle of Iraq, according to the text of the president’s speech, was “difficult” and “dangerous” work, but not war. The president articulated the tasks ahead: pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, searching for chemical and biological weapons, securing and reconstructing Iraq, and standing with new leaders as they establish a new government. But the battle was over, in the mind of his administration, in April 2003 when Baghdad fell.What followed was “not war,” and was not treated as seriously as was the planning, preparation and execution of what the Bush administration thought was “the war.” The bungling of post-Saddam Iraq by the Coalition Provisional Authority is well-documented. Following this bungled effort were two and half years of misreading the realities in Iraq. Even as an insurgency emerged and violence increased significantly, the Bush administration, supported by some military leaders, stayed the course relative to its strategy: transition to Iraqi control, politically and militarily.What Bush called the battle of Iraq was actually only the first campaign that would be necessary if he was to achieve the political war aim that he set. Other campaigns, military and nonmilitary, would be necessary. The path he had initially selected was leading nowhere. So, contrary to most military and civilian advice, the president chose to “surge.”The Surge had several purposes: reduce the violence and get control of the security situation, so reconciliation could begin and a sufficiently inclusive government could emerge. But unlike the battle of Iraq and the failed “we’ll stand down as they stand up” approaches, the Surge embodied a coherent and integrated civil-military approach that is best understood as six interrelated campaigns. “The Surge Fallacy” glosses over these details of the Surge, as do many other accounts.The first campaign was intellectual. The Surge was not just more troops, but troops used differently, more effectively. Thinking preceded acting, and the initial thinking was done before the first Surge troop or additional ambassador arrived in Iraq. But the intellectual campaign continued as part of the re-education necessary both in theater and out, for both military leaders and political.Second was the phased, nationwide counteroffensive that the increase of troops, coalition and Iraqi, allowed. This counteroffensive was an integrated blend of conventional and special operations forces. Further, in its clear-hold-build-transfer construct, it was also a blend of military and nonmilitary action.The third involved growing the Iraqi Security Forces in size, capability and confidence so they could contribute to securing their nation. Transition would follow capacity, not time. The Iraqis had to be part of the counteroffensive. They were key, for strategic success was unachievable without them.The fourth campaign involved helping get Iraq’s basic economic infrastructure—electricity, oil, rail, sea- and airports, road systems and bridges, and banks—to a satisfactory minimum level. The fifth entailed engaging Iraq’s neighbors, both to reduce the flow of foreign fighters and equipment and to encourage renewed diplomatic relations with Iraq.The main effort, however—the effort to which each of the others was subordinate—was the sixth campaign: political. Simultaneously, the effort was bottom-up and top-down. From the bottom, the Surge tried to foster reconciliation during the clear, hold and build phases of the counteroffensive by immediately improving local living conditions and, simultaneously, beginning the slow growth in the local and provincial government’s ability to respond to the needs of citizens.From the top, the idea was to use bottom-up successes as well as progress on the security front—one of which was the results of the Sunni Awakening—to stimulate better national-level decisions while at the same time slowly improving ministerial performance within and among ministries. Again, all the efforts of the first five campaigns were nested within this sixth, political effort. The Surge was far from being solely a military affair—unlike the common understanding.The Surge’s interrelated campaigns were not perfectly conceived plans, nor were they perfectly executed. But they were conceived and executed well enough to change what many had concluded was a hopeless situation doomed to failure. Those who claim that the success of the Surge is a legend simply make the same mistake that the Bush administration made in the first four years of the war: The war was not over when the violence went down.By late 2007, the levels of violence had dropped significantly. By mid-2008 to 2009, levels of violence were quite low. In this period, the U.S. and coalition strategies started to adjust, but even then misconceptions emerged. While the size and composition of the military forces necessary for the two security campaigns could—and did—reduce, the economic, diplomatic and political campaigns should have increased, or at least not diminished. Unfortunately, that was not the case. When the violence went down, American policy reduced the whole effort. In 2009 and 2010, the Obama administration made the same mistake that the Bush administration made in 2003—to believe that the war was over when violence is reduced. Then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki read the initial moves of 2009 and 2010 as diminished American interest and, as a consequence, saw room to become more sectarian rather than less. He created more enemies and gutted his own security forces, thus setting the conditions for the revival of al-Qaida in Iraq, which became the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Our policies were complicit in this. Just as the Bush administration refused to see the realities unfolding from 2004 through 2006, the Obama administration refused to see the realities unfolding from 2010 to 2014. The vision of both administrations was obscured by ideology and a misunderstanding of what it takes to succeed in war. Both administrations equated war with fighting, which led both to believe when the fighting is mostly over, the war is over.Rather than an example of “wild overestimation of American power,” as Beinart claims in his article, the leaders of the Surge clearly understood that military force—one element of American power—was necessary but limited in what it could achieve.American economic, diplomatic and political power was also necessary. In fact, from the perspective of the civil and military leaders during the Surge, two observations are important. First, the reduction in violence seen in the 2007–09 period was achieved through the conjunction of military (coalition and Iraqi) and nonmilitary power, and created some opportunities and took advantage of others as they arose. Second, once the violence and the insurgency were reduced, the nonmilitary elements of the Surge became even more important. Unfortunately, U.S. policy did not see it that way. The actions taken to reduce violence and the insurgency could have led, ultimately, to a better outcome than we see now. We’ll never know.Both the Republican and Democratic administrations had it wrong. Both misunderstood that military force is necessary but is insufficient to wage war. Committing the nation to war means more than a military commitment; even after almost 15 years of war, we don’t seem to understand that. Or if we do understand, we can’t seem to act on that understanding.The issue is not just overestimating what U.S. power can do—certainly some have done that. Rather, it’s limiting our understanding of power to hard military power, as well as leaving us unable to generate and orchestrate the other elements of national power sufficiently enough to create sustained effects. What the Surge shows is that political scientist Joseph Nye is right when he says the best foreign policy integrates the proper proportions of hard and soft power—that’s what the Surge attempted. Leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq would not have fixed the situation. Nothing was going to fix Iraq in the short run. But some number of troops with the right mission and embedded in a larger strategy that began in 2009 and continued beyond 2011 may have prevented the mess we now have.War is the realm of probabilities. Whether we should or should not have invaded Iraq in the first place is an open and legitimate question. But what is not open is this: Once we did invade, we reduced the probabilities of a better outcome by the way we played our hands in 2003 and in 2010. That’s one of the lessons we should be learning.