Why McCain can't stop talking surge

McCain talks about the surge all the time, because it is, in his mind,  the only positive thing that he is capable of talking about.

He can't talk about the economy, much, because people may start to notice which party has been in charge of the economy for so many years.

He can't talk about his knowledge of the economy, because people may begin to notice that there isn't any discernible knowledge there.

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The Petraeus Doctrine

We have had a lot of discussions on the timing, and the success of the "surge" in Iraq.  I would like to complement those discussions with this diary on the "Petraeus Doctrine", which (in my opinion) is responsible for the improvements in Iraq.  The surge would have been meaningless if it had not been accompanied (or preceded, rather) by the adoption of the "Petraeus Doctrine".  So what is the Petraeus Doctrine ?
Throughout Petraeus's tenure in Iraq, Multi-National Force-Iraq has endeavored to work with the Government of Iraq to carry out this strategy that focuses on securing the population. Doing so has required establishing -- and maintaining -- this persistent presence by living among the population, separating reconcilable Iraqis from irreconcilable enemies, relentlessly pursuing the enemy, taking back sanctuaries and then holding areas that have been cleared, and continuing to develop Iraq's security forces and to support local security forces, often called Sons of Iraq, and to integrate them into the Iraqi Army and Police and other employment programs.
The strategy underpinning the "surge" of forces, as well as the ideas Petraeus included in FM 3-24, have been referred to by some journalists and politicians as the "Petraeus Doctrine," although the surge itself was proposed a few months before Petraeus took command. Despite the misgivings of most Democratic and a few Republican senators over the proposed implementation of the "Petraeus Doctrine" in Iraq, specifically regarding the troop surge, Petraeus was unanimously confirmed as a four-star general and MNF-I commander on January 27.

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Depends What The Meaning of "The Surge" Is

As many have noted, John McCain's latest Iraq gaffe came in a doozy of an interview with CBS News wherein the presumptive Republican nominee either lied about the timing of the surge or didn't actually know the recent history of what's going on in Iraq. You pick which is worse.

From The New York Times:

Mr. McCain bristled in an interview with the "CBS Evening News" on Tuesday when asked about Mr. Obama's contention that while the added troops had helped reduce violence in Iraq, other factors had helped, including the Sunni Awakening movement, in which thousands of Sunnis were enlisted to patrol neighborhoods and fight the insurgency, and the Iraqi government's crackdown on Shiite militias.

"I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened," Mr. McCain told Katie Couric, noting that the Awakening movement began in Anbar Province when a Sunni sheik teamed up with Sean MacFarland, a colonel who commanded an Army brigade there.

"Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others," Mr. McCain said. "And it began the Anbar Awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history."

Since that interview, it's been widely reported that the Anbar Awakening actually was in full effect during the fall of 2006 and Bush hadn't even announced the escalation of forces commonly referred to as "the surge" until January of 2007. Here again we have an episode in which John McCain demonstrates that he clearly doesn't understand that which he's supposed to be an expert at.

Cue one of McCain's patented explanations and clarifications. But this time he didn't go down the well-trodden "out of context" path, rather he simply completely redefined the meaning of the surge. Check this out:

McCAIN: ... Prior to that they had been going into places, killing people or not killing people, and then withdrawing. And the new counterinsurgency 'surge' entailed going in, and clearing and holding, which Col. MacFarland had already started doing. And then of course later on, there were additional troops. And Gen. Petraeus has said that the surge would not have worked and the Anbar Awakening would not have taken place -- successfully -- if they hadn't had an increase in the number of troops. So, I'm not sure, frankly, that people really understand, that a surge is part of a counterinsurgency strategy, which means going in, clearing, holding, building, building a better life, providing services to the people, and then, clearly, a part of that, an important part of that, was additional troops to ensure the safety of the sheikhs, to regain control of Ramadi, which was a very bloody fight, and then the surge continued to succeed in that counterinsurgency.

REPORTER: So when you say 'surge' then, you're not referring to just the one that President Bush initiated, you're saying it goes back several months before that?

McCAIN: Yes.

But, of course, this is completely revisionist as even McCain himself has on numerous occasions defined the surge as synonymous with the escalation in forces. Ilan Goldenberg takes us for a trip in the wayback machine:

Just two months ago McCain came under attack for saying this:

"I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels."

Of course, U.S. forces hadn't drawn down to "pre surge" levels.  They are only now just getting back to 140,000, which is still above pre-surge levels.  But that's besides the point.  What was McCain referring in that moment?  Was he saying "We are drawing back down to where we were before Colonel McFarland started using counterinsurgency tactics in Anbar as part of the Anbar Awakening." No, that is completely and patently absurd.  He meant that we are coming back down to pre-January 2007 numbers when the "surge" actually began.

In fact, he added later:

"The surge, we have drawn down from the surge and we will complete that drawdown to the end -- at the end of July. That's just a factual statement."

According to this statement John McCain is basically asserting that the surge is over.  But based on his own definition today the "surge" actually equals the counterinsurgency strategy.  So, is the counterinsurgency strategy over?  I think that might be news to General Petraeus.

John McCain: confused, now with an added dose of desperate.

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A Slightly Less Wrong Doesn't Make a Right

Among the many instances of chutzpah that make my eyes explode is the strange brew of logic exmplified by ABC News here:
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/ 2008/07/the-success-of.html


The Success of the Surge Seemingly Puts Obama on the Defensive
July 15, 2008 2:22 PM

Though a majority of the American people support ending the war in Iraq and think the invasion was a mistake, Republicans have tried to put Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, into a box as he prepares for his first trip to Iraq since securing his party's presidential nomination.

The idea that the "surge" is a success hinges upon so many caveats that you'd have to attend a few months of Latin class to keep up. I'll just name a few:
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  • It first required successful ethnic cleansing to put an active civil war on 'hold'
  • It required abandoning our holds on other territories
  • It required arming and paying our prior enemies, now friends with American blood on their hands
  • It required battling our well-paid prior friends, now enemies with American blood on their hands
  • It required more American blood
  • It strengthened Iran's role in Iraq
  • It has not improved Iraq politically, which was the stated goal of the time
  • Iraq wants us out even more
  • It is unsustainable

You would think that any of the above would disqualify the "surge" as a success, or at least the last one, with anyone with a modicum of intelligence.

Granted, in this case, we are dealing with Jake "I Dated Monica So Give Me a Career" Tapper, so I'll save the commentators that point. And we're dating with the DC villagers who don't often like to mix facts with their statements of fact -- proven by the alternative universe in which China is drilling off the coast of Florida, no oil spilled during Katrina and John McCain is a steadfast Maverick straight-talker.

By which I mean, I get it, the surge is a "success" regardless of the facts on the ground, because enough people who pretend to like the food at Lauriel Plaza say it is. The people eating food in Iraq? Who listens to them.


Multiple bombings kill 40 in northern Iraq
Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombers killed around 40 people and wounded scores in several attacks in northern Iraq on Tuesday, days after the government vowed to expand a crackdown against militants in a region where al Qaeda retains influence.

In the worst attacks, two suicide bombers killed 27 people and wounded 68 when they blew themselves up outside an army recruitment centre in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, an Iraqi security source said.

The New Yorker wieghed in on this this week, again equating the current situation with "success". Even if they pin the credit as much on luck as surging...


At the start of 2007, no one in Baghdad would have predicted that blood-soaked neighborhoods would begin returning to life within a year. The improved conditions can be attributed, in increasing order of importance, to President Bush's surge, the change in military strategy under General David Petraeus, the turning of Sunni tribes against Al Qaeda, the Sadr militia's unilateral ceasefire, and the great historical luck that brought them all together at the same moment.

As for me, I'm just ranting I fear. Because the "surge as success" meme seems to be destined for long term, unargued "fact" -- regardless of whether it is also destined to join our successes with, say, getting so Soviets out of Afghanistan, helping Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, and I'd keep going on but it's hard to simultaneously type and bash one's head against the wall.

Because what really gets me, is how this idea of a success in Iraq seems to negate the "being wrong about Iraq in the first place."

Mickey Kaus, ladies and gents:


A reader emails:

People seem to think it's somehow a stroke of political genius that Sen. Obama is taking Sen. Hagel with him on his trip to Iraq. But why doesn't this highlight Obama's lack of judgment on the surge, by bringing along the man who considered it a catastrophically bad idea?

Actually, Hagel called the surge "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." ... Is Obama cannily trying to demonstrate why Hagel would be a horrifying VP pick? Is he trying to deflect attention from his own poor surge judgment ("the surge has not worked") by bringing along as a lightning rod someone whose judgment was even worse than his? ... Imagine how embarrassing it would be if Obama went with an antiwar Republican like Gen. Zinni, who supported the surge, with what now looks like contrarian wisdom. ... 1:40 A.M.

So, Hagel, hated by Kaus for being RIGHT on Iraq as a whole, is now even more hated for being WRONG about the surge, even if he may not, in fact, have been wrong about the surge. (Since we're arming and paying God knows who for short term ends (see the aforementioned soviet afghanistan), we should all know by know how those chickens come home to roost).

I see this a lot. Political Correctness about the surge is seeming to absolve a lot of pro-Iraq warriors of all their prior wrongness about the war. Certainly, that's McCain's point -- although he's at least trying to rewrite his own history of being pro-EVERYTHING that Bush did about the war.

I would think the easiest way to deflect this would be to argue the point that the surge is a "success" -- at least in conjunction with Obama's "Iraq doesn't matter in the war on terror" point. But maybe the fact is too far entrenched to try.

I wish it wasn't. For my own forhead bruising purposes. At least Jon Stewart made a point of Maliki's handing out our US Aid dollars to citizens like, as Stewart said, "Sanatra at the Sands."


BAGHDAD - It is a politician's dream: Handing out cold, hard cash to people on the street as they plead for help. Iraq's prime minister has been doing just that in recent weeks, doling out Iraqi dinars as an aide trails behind, keeping a tally.

In that China-drilling, Katrina-non-spilling, free money for everyone just not Us, alternative universe, no wonder the surge is a success!

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McCain Can Have His Cake and Eat It Too

Brought to you by the fine folks at The Left Anchor:

This is what we'll be fighting against until November.  Stanley Fish writes a disingenuous love letter to St. John McCain in his blog at the New York Times.  From Fish's standpoint, everything McCain has done regarding Iraq will help him in the general election.  To come to this point, Fish must ignore all of the reasons we went to war in the first place.  As is usual with the American media, what's past is quickly forgotten, which is why Fish gets to say this:

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