Detention as a Peacemaking Strategy: The 2007–08 Iraq Surge and US Detention Policy


The surge in Iraq was one of the key foreign policy decisions of the past decade. Its success prompted a second surge into Afghanistan by a new president a few years later. The success of the Iraq surge has prompted work by academics and policymakers alike. One factor of the success of the surge that has been understudied by both academics and policymakers is the role played by the detention of individuals and the changes in detention policy that accompanied the surge. In this paper, I outline a brief informal model of how an intervening state can use detention to help alleviate some of the causes of intergroup conflict to increase the odds of successful intervention. I then show how the changes in US detention policy during the surge contributed to the success of the overall strategy. A key argument in this paper is that detention contributed to the success of the surge even though it was not a primary or public aspect of the surge strategy.

Foreign Policy Analysis, 12(3)