The Chronology Of The Surge

A back-and-forth has developed over whether John McCain accurately stated the history behind the surge and the implementation of the counterinsurgency strategy in some recent comments. McCain suggested that the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy helped bring about the Anbar awakening. Strictly speaking, the awakening began prior to the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy.

However, that does not end the analysis, as this article points out:

The National Security Network, a liberal foreign policy group, called Mr. McCain’s explanation of the surge’s history “completely wrong.”

But several foreign policy analysts said that if Mr. McCain got the chronology wrong, his broader point — that the troop escalation was crucial for the Awakening movement to succeed and spread — was right. “I would say McCain is three-quarters right in this debate,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

As related in the article, General Petraeus has stated that the Anbar awakening “started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge.” So while McCain may have misstated the strict chronology, his essential point remains: The success of the Anbar awakening and the other awakenings that have happened throughout Iraq would have been impossible without the surge of troops and the implementation of the counterinsurgency strategy.

And the article contains another key and essential point:

If Mr. McCain found himself criticized for seeming to confuse the chronology of events in Iraq, some analysts said Mr. Obama seemed to be giving too little credit to the surge for improving conditions in Iraq. Mr. Obama, who opposed the Iraq war, said in an interview with “Nightline” on ABC this week that if he had to do it all over again, knowing what he knew now, he would still not support the surge.

Mr. O’Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, said he did not understand why Mr. Obama seemed to want to debate the success of the surge. “Any human being is reluctant to admit a mistake,” he said, noting that it takes on added risk in a political campaign.

It would be a good and illuminating deal if the following exchange could take place: McCain could admit that he misstated the strict chronology of the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy. In return, Obama could admit that he was completely and entirely wrong about how effective the introduction of the surge and the implementation of the counterinsurgency strategy would be.