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July 24, 2008

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"And this American history was initiated in some sense by Captain John Smith, and when I visited with him in 1607"

Nice way to raise the age issue hilzoy. ^.^

Drew: It could have been worse. At one point I was working on the surge having caused the fall of Rome.

I'm not a big McCain fan, and the dude is definitely prone to elderly gaffes and confusion. But I'm glad there was someone in DC who had the courage to support a strategy that aided in reducing violence in Iraq when there was so much domestic opposition to the war and the COIN strategy...including from ObWi. The world is a better place because Iraq is more stable than late 2006, despite the high costs of war.

John McCain tried to explain his claim that the surge, which was announced in January 2007, began the surge, which began in the summer of 2006.

Er, you mean the Sunni Awakening, right? Not the surge ---> the surge.

MY bad. Didn't watch the video first.

I'm glad there was someone in DC who had the courage to support a strategy that aided in reducing violence in Iraq when there was so much domestic opposition to the war and the COIN strategy

What does this even mean? Are you saying McCain had particular courage in pushing a policy that his constituents didn't agree with? Why should Senators be proud of their refusal to listen to their constituents? I mean, if you think that the surge was a good idea, why does it take courage to advocate it...doesn't that only make sense if you assume that everyone thought the surge was a good idea but didn't want to do it?

Also, where is this domestic opposition to the COIN strategy? And do you really think domestic opposition to the COIN strategy was higher than military opposition to COIN? It seems that historically, the US military has been unbelievably good at failing to fight insurgencies properly and then failing to actually institutionalize knowledge of how to fight insurgencies after they learn the hard way. I suppose a decades long institutional tradition of failing to learn things while striving for ignorance might be a good idea...if you didn't care about winning wars.

The world is a better place because Iraq is more stable than late 2006, despite the high costs of war.

So, are you saying that making Iraq more stable is worth any cost? Could we just nuke the whole country? I've been told that glass is extremely stable. Can't get much more stable than that. Or maybe some costs are too high, which means we should analyze them in relation to the, um, benefits...like in some sort of cost-benefit analysis. Nah, that's crazy talk. I think you should continue using your benefit-only analysis. Factoring in costs might alter the conclusions.

Do you think maybe there's some little kid somewherte named Serge who keeps wondering why some old guy on T.V. is talking about him.

So wait, was it this counterinsurgency strategy that Obama was opposed to or the additional troops? Or the planting of this funny looking maize stuff?

I'm having a little trouble following this.

What McCain says is perfectly understandable and sensible.

Your attempt to deliberately misunderstand what he says (and, tellingly, your descent into ridicule) is obtuse and stupid.

"The Surge Caused Everything!"

Cross-posted at Andrew Sullivan.

What McCain says is perfectly understandable and sensible.

Your attempt to deliberately misunderstand what he says (and, tellingly, your descent into ridicule) is obtuse and stupid.

So, let met get this straight. When hilzoy makes mincemeat out of the idiot's logic and linguistic distortion McCain uses to try and explain why he got basic facts wrong, your defense is that she's being "obtuse and stupid"? Please, please offer your services as a McCain volunteer without delay! You're exactly the sort of syncophant who'd fit perfectly into his campaign.


"Why should Senators be proud of their refusal to listen to their constituents?"

They should be if their constituents are wrong.

If leaders can't or don't lead by telling people when they're wrong, then what's the point of having them? Why not just replace them with an answering machine and a poll?

"Your attempt to deliberately misunderstand what he says (and, tellingly, your descent into ridicule) is obtuse and stupid."

Good example of the argument by assertion; thanks!

More here from McClatchy reporter Nancy Youssef:

[...] FP: There’s been a debate in the media about how much credit should be given to “the surge” for what you’re seeing now. Barack Obama said it was just one of several factors that helped improve the security situation. Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, didn’t even credit the addition of U.S. troops in his recent interview with Der Spiegel. Meanwhile, John McCain gives the surge the lion’s share of the credit. Who do you think is right?

NY: When you ask the Iraqis here, they say that the added U.S. forces were a part of it, but what really turned things around was the Sahwa movement [of former insurgents switching sides], Moqtada’s ceasefires, and in their minds, Basra. Basra was the first Iraqi-led success story, and it really changed the momentum. So, the Iraqis that we talk to see it as a complex equation with the U.S. troop surge as just one factor. And frankly, the situation on the ground suggests that they’re right, because the surge troops have left, and the security situation remains better.

Read the rest of the short interview.

Your attempt to deliberately misunderstand what he says (and, tellingly, your descent into ridicule) is obtuse and stupid.

What you're looking for is a refutation; this is not one of those. If you think hilzoy is wrong, you might want to consider telling her exactly where and how.

"The world is a better place because Iraq is more stable than late 2006, despite the high costs of war. "

How so? And that is a serious question. Iraq may be a better place, but why is the whole wide world a better place?

The world wasn't any safer when Saddam fell, despite all the assertions otherwise, so why is this.

am, all hilzoy is pointing out is that if one chooses to define things in a distorted manner, totally ignoring reality, then anyone can make accurate statements that aren't. Of course McCain is right, assuming you allow him to define terms and use timelines that aren't correct.

Oh, and of course, McCain never points out that he was very critical of the "surge" at the beginning because it didn't have enough troops and therefore couldn't really have a great chance of success.

You are being very selective of facts there, hilzoy. You deride McCain for spelling out the sequence of events, and then accuse of him of parsing. That's disingenuous on your part.

McCain was a critic of Rumsfeld's approach all the way back to early 2004 - he repeatedly argued for increased troop levels and pointedly criticized Bush throughout. When the war critics were at a fever pitch during the Kerry run, McCain was just about the only Republican that had maintained the credibility to push for a more agressive strategy. The move to an explicit counterinsurgency strategy required the recognition on the part of the Pentagon that things were not going so well, and unfortunately that awaited Bush's "thumping" in 2006 and Rumsfeld's subsequent resignation (some 27 months after McCain had originally suggested "more troops on the ground"). But by late 2006, through the replacement of generals and modest successes (such as finally killing Zarqawi in June '06), a surge of effort was already underway. The "troop level surge" was the most important piece of the political surge *to avoid defeat*. You fail to note that this was completely opposed by Obama and other liberal Democrats, and yet it passed Congressional muster anyway.

OT, but only a little. Apparently McCain is now saying that the recent drop in oil prices is due to Bush revoking the executive ban on off-shore drilling.

Even though both he and Bush have stated that would not affect prices, even though there is still aCongressional ban.

Please, can the major media outlets at some time in the future (but not too far in the future) start really coveing this guy. He is so much worse than I thought he would be.

The world is a safer place because Iraq is a safer place. Anytime violence is reduced in one place, it redounds to global security. If you don't buy that premise, then you are *excusing* all sorts of terror. Do you not believe that the world would be a better place if Mugabe and his thug brigades were in prison, or if the warlords that are perpetrating genocide in Darfur were dead? The executions of Saddam, Uday and Qusay, and Zarqawi ABSOLUTELY made the world a safer place. Any claim to the contrary is, at the very least, "obtuse".

Adrian WIld: "You are being very selective of facts there, hilzoy. You deride McCain for spelling out the sequence of events, and then accuse of him of parsing."

No, I'm not accusing him of parsing. I'm accusing him of using a word to mean something it pretty plainly does not mean.

Plus, if the surge does mean "the counterinsurgency strategy", I don't know anyone who opposed it. In particular, Senator Obama did not.

Also, Adam: you were right. Thanks. I changed it.

The writer of this insipid piece said:

"So, if I understand this: the surge is part of a counterinsurgency strategy. This strategy has a number of components."

Well, no, you DON'T understand it. Read the words. Try to understand them. If you can't, go back to school and get an education.

What McCain said (this from your own article) was:

"McCain: First of all, a surge is really a counterinsurgency strategy, and ... "

Get it? a) "Part of". b) "Is". They're DIFFERENT.

a) "Part of". b) "Is".

a) "Part of". b) "Is".

See? If you don't, please go back and learn English before you write any more!

hilzoy's argument is deeply flawed because it leaves untouched mccain's central premise.

the central premise of mccain's argument is that the "surge" was more than a mere increase in troops. according to mccain, the surge involved, among other things, an implemenation of new policing techniques as well as a redeployment of forces from some "secure" provinces to other less secure provinces. like it or not, there is some basis (slim though it may be) for this view, as troops were re-deployed to hot zones around the same time that additional troops were sent to iraq.

on the other hand, hilzoy's argument simply hyperventilates with X's and Y's in an apparent attempt to make it seem like she is employing a higher form of logical reasoning, when the argument is, in fact, completely illogical.

that is the difference:

surge is entire counterinsurgency strategy=plausible (but perhaps doubtful),
surge is entirety of american history=implausible.

in sum, the post is craptastic and reveals the chief problem among obama bloggers-- the idea that a witticism is a substitute for facts and reasoning.

thatemailname says "Well, no, you DON'T understand it. Read the words. Try to understand them. If you can't, go back to school and get an education.

What McCain said (this from your own article) was:

"McCain: First of all, a surge is really a counterinsurgency strategy, and ... "

Get it? a) "Part of". b) "Is". They're DIFFERENT.

did you miss the part in the second paragraph of McCain's answer where he says "a surge is part of a counterinsurgency strategy"? Or does that not count?

this post is craptastic says: in sum, the post is craptastic and reveals the chief problem among obama bloggers-- the idea that a witticism is a substitute for facts and reasoning.

It's hard to use facts and reasoning when you're arguing with Humpty Dumpty.

My mother's life was saved by a heart operation, and clearly this would have been impossible without The Surge changing the conditions on all grounds everywhere and everywhen.

Put me with those who think that McCain is perfectly clear in what he said, and that Hilzoy's criticisms are not persuasive. (Nor, obviously, do they become more persuasive by the mocking tone at the end of the piece.) "The Surge" -- before, at the time, and after -- has always included counterinsurgency tactics, including those used in Anbar. McCain was incorrect when he said the Surge caused the Anbar Awakening. But he is absolutely correct to link the two and his words here are perfectly clear.

I wonder if some of this is that you weren't aware at the time (2006, 2007) of the changes in counterinsurgency strategy. This was reported on military blogs (Blackfive in particular), but it didn't filter well into the general public.

N.b., also, that I was highly skeptical of the surge during the time it was being implemented, questioning whether it was too late in light of Rumsfelds' mismangement, and also questioning Bush's ability to put the people or a strategy in place capable of pulling it off. I ended up opposing the Surge, despite having argued for more troops since the beginning. But note carefully my criticisms from that era. McCain's points are not being made up after the fact.

So, yes, I feel for McCain and it is a bit personal. The really annoying part of all this is that he had real political courage when he stood up to Bush and Rumsfeld -- taking all sorts of flack from the right -- but when the strategy finally gets implemented, a lot of folks like me who were with him from the beginning had given up.

And then, seemingly against the odds, a little hope appears. McCain deserves credit for it. If the surge turns out to have turned around Iraq -- and the jury is still way, way out on that -- he deserves credit for that as well.

Adrien, if McCain was a supporter of more troops for so long, why did he even vote for the war in the first place, when it was obvious that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. were going to invade Iraq with far too few troops to properly secure the country? Why did he vote to send our troops in when he knew they weren't going to go in prepared, and the Administration had made no kinds of planning an occupation?

In other words, if he was saying even back then that the Bush Administration was completely bungling the invasion, why did he vote to approve the bunglers invasion?

Plus, if the surge does mean "the counterinsurgency strategy", I don't know anyone who opposed it. In particular, Senator Obama did not.

No, but Obama opposed providing the troops to take the counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq.

I still think that a lot of Obama bloggers are missing a key weakness in their argument: Yes, Anbar preceeded the Surge and was successful before the Surge. But the Surge was about taking a successful strategy in Anbar countrywide (albeit, as That Left Turn pointed out on a different thread, with different tactics). Your argument seems to be "Anbar was successful before the Surge and that was a reason to oppose the Surge." But the opposite was in fact true.

Now, I'm not going to ding Obama too much for opposing the Surge; heck, I did too. Bush had screwed so much up I simply had no faith in him or his team to implement even a good strategy. But I recognized then, and now, that it was a good strategy.

von: I'm fine with giving McCain credit for supporting the surge -- that is to say, the increase in troops announced by the President in Jan. 2007.

I am not fine with using the word 'surge' to mean whatever you want it to mean, or to rewrite history so that it becomes responsible for all good things.

McCain made a stupid mistake when he said it was responsible for the Anbar Awakening. He is now trying not to admit he made that mistake by expanding the word 'surge' to include the entire counterinsurgency. If that is what we now mean by "surge", then I supported the surge, despite my opposition to the increase in troops, and so did Senator Obama. And in that case, we all deserve credit for supporting the surge.

Personally, I'm happier saying that the surge is the increase in troops, that Sen. McCain supported it while neither I nor Sen. Obama did, and that it was one of several causes that led to the decrease in violence. I'm also happier with people who can just fess up to their mistakes when they make them.

>>"Why should Senators be proud of their refusal to listen to their constituents?"

>They should be if their constituents are wrong.

But when their constituents are NOT wrong...
cf. Proverbs 16:18: Pride, haughty spirit, etc.

Adrien, if McCain was a supporter of more troops for so long, why did he even vote for the war in the first place, when it was obvious that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. were going to invade Iraq with far too few troops to properly secure the country?

Nate, this wasn't "obvious" to most of the Democratic members of Congress. So the criticism, aside from being unfair, is untrue.

von: "Your argument seems to be "Anbar was successful before the Surge and that was a reason to oppose the Surge.""

My argument, at least, is just: Anbar was successful before the surge, and that's a reason not to say that it was caused by the surge.

von: I'm fine with giving McCain credit for supporting the surge -- that is to say, the increase in troops announced by the President in Jan. 2007.

I am not fine with using the word 'surge' to mean whatever you want it to mean, or to rewrite history so that it becomes responsible for all good things.

Hilzoy, it's you who are inadvertently rewriting history because you don't know the history. Read Adrien's post. Follow the links. Go back to posts from the era. "More troops" was just the headline -- and an inaccurate one at that.

My argument, at least, is just: Anbar was successful before the surge, and that's a reason not to say that it was caused by the surge.

OK.

Plus, if the surge does mean "the counterinsurgency strategy", I don't know anyone who opposed it. In particular, Senator Obama did not.

Exactly.

Can someone point to Obama or any other Dem politician going on record opposing bringing COIN tactics to other parts of Iraq?

Can someone point to Obama arguing against Sadr calling a cease fire?

Did the extra troops wall off Baghdad?

Did the extra troops cleanse Baghdad neighborhoods?

This is misdirection. Sleight of hand. Ex post facto patchwork justification.

von: How am I rewriting history, exactly?

I'm fine with an argument like this: the surge was not a mere increase in troop strength. Sending troops to Iraq and having them just sit on a base all day would have been entirely counterproductive. The surge was an increase in troop strength in the service of a counterinsurgency strategy.

That's great. I am not trying to argue that the surge was just any old increase in troops.

But the surge is not itself the counterinsurgency strategy in its entirety. Or at least it wasn't before yesterday. And while it's fine to say: no, the surge isn't just an increase in troops -- as though it would have been just as good to have them wander around in clown costumes doing cartwheels as carrying out a COIN strategy -- it is not OK to try to pretend that "the surge" started in the summer of 2006, includes McFarland's work during that summer in Anbar, etc.

Again, my interest in this is (a) that what McCain said the day before yesterday raises real questions about whether he knows why the violence went down, and (b) the fact that he cannot seem to admit error. It is not in arguing for or against the surge, claiming that it had no COIN component, etc.

Adrien, if McCain was a supporter of more troops for so long, why did he even vote for the war in the first place, when it was obvious that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. were going to invade Iraq with far too few troops to properly secure the country?

Nate, this wasn't "obvious" to most of the Democratic members of Congress. So the criticism, aside from being unfair, is untrue.

Von, it was obvious to me, J. Nobody on the Internet. It was obvious to hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest the Iraq war. If it was obvious to people who DON'T have staffs, and security breifings, and all the rest of the resources a congresscritter has, then they should have been able to figure it out too.

There are plenty of reasons for any congresscritter to have voted for the war even though they knew Bush was mishandling it and lying from the beginning. Hope that it'd work out despite Bush. Maybe they figured once things turned sour Bush would either leave or try and do things right, instead of making things worse and worse for years and years. Maybe they believed the lies, and were targeted with more lies and made up "facts" than J. Random Nobody, so thought Saddam really and truly had nukes targeted at New York. Or maybe they were just trying to make short term political calculations that voting against the war would hurt them politically, and didn't figure Iraq would become the expensive disaster it has been. (Clinton?)

But John McCain's not running on being a politican who made a bad decision as part of political calculation, he's running on his support of more troops for "the surge" and his "maverickness" and "integrity". So if he thought we needed more troops from the beginning, and isn't afraid to break with the Republicans because of his integrity, why didn't he oppose sending too few troops into Iraq?

Could it be that all of us, (well, OK, many of us), have gotten a little imprecise and sloppy with the term?

It's fairly common to see The Surge used to refer to the "Petraeus Plan" in general, as implemented in Central Iraq (the new New Way Forward strategy with clear and hold and more focus on local political leaders and so on, per the General's book). And it's fairly common to see The Surge used to refer to the five brigade force buildup ordered by the President to support Petraeus' effort in Baghdad.

McCain looks to be guilty of the same imprecision.

The Silly Season is nearly upon us. You can tell because the principle of charity has lost its lustre.

I wonder if some of this is that you weren't aware at the time (2006, 2007) of the changes in counterinsurgency strategy.

Was that *changes* in counterinsurgency strategy, or belated *adoption* of counterinsurgency strategy?

Perhaps some of the defenders of OurJohn could actually...(I know I'm asking a lot)...document even one criticism he made of the stupidest strategy ever between Mar03 and Jan07. I have tried to find the quotes myself of his fierce denunciation of Rumsfeld or Bush for planning the minimalist invasion, disbanding Iraqi institutions and then planning to pull out in three months. Which was btw what they actually started doing. Orders were sent from CentCom to Baghdad for units to begin planning their move back to Kuwait. Then--as Rummy said--'shit happened'.

Little advice for future Repub invaders: To fail to plan is to plan to fail.

Read that somewhere.

Hilzoy- Please check the email at obsidianinfo listed above.

"More troops" was just the headline -- and an inaccurate one at that.

But Von, it wasn't just a headline. That is how John McCain discussed it! He was not talking up COIN, he was talking about more troops. As the Surge.

A few pieces of evidence.

And when people opposed sending more troops to Iraq as the surge, they were not opposing using COIN tactics. Actually, many of the Surge opponents were calling for COIN tactics from the beginning (hearts and minds after all is COIN dogma).

And Surge opponents were not against Sadr calling for a cease fire. And they were not against Sunni outreach and collaboration vs. AQI. And they were not against the sectarian violence dying down (tragically, as a result of the sectarian cleansing already undertaken).

Obama opposed providing the troops to take the counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq.

I'm pretty sure no one ever proposed that, because everyone recognized that we don't have enough troops to practice COIN throughout Iraq. The surge sent enough troops to expand the effort in Anbar and start it in Baghdad, and I seem to recall McCain arguing at the time that we would need 50,000 extra troops to do even that.

I've concluded that John McCain must be reading NRO ..

The tribal leaders in Anbar began to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq last year [2006], largely due to unspeakable atrocities committed by the terrorists against their own hosts. Many analysts and observers have seized upon this fact to argue that the movement in Anbar had nothing to do with the surge, began before the surge did, and would continue even without the surge. This argument is invalid. Anbari tribal leaders did begin to turn against AQI in their areas last year before the surge began, but not before Colonel Sean MacFarland began to apply in Ramadi the tactics and techniques that are the basis of the current strategy in Baghdad. His soldiers and Marines fought tenaciously to establish a foothold in Anbar’s capital, which was then a terrorist stronghold, and thereby demonstrated to the local leaders that they could count on American support as they began to fight their erstwhile allies. Even so, the movement proceeded slowly and fitfully for most of 2006 and, indeed, into 2007. But when Colonel John Charlton’s brigade relieved MacFarland’s in Ramadi and was joined by two additional Marine battalions (part of the surge) elsewhere in Anbar, the “awakening” began to accelerate very rapidly. At the start of 2007 there were only a handful of Anbaris in the local security forces. By the summer there were over 14,000. Before the surge, Ramadi was one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq; now it is possible for Americans to walk through its market with limited security details and without body armor. David Kilcullen describes the relationship between the surge and the movement very well in his Small Wars Journal posting, and I have also addressed the issue in detail in a recent Weekly Standard article . The fact is that neither the surge nor the turn of the tribal leaders would in itself have been enough to turn Anbar around — both were necessary, and will remain so for some time.

A retraction. SenJohn joined Hegel, Collins, Schwarzkof & a few others in criticising Rummy in 04. Studiously avoided attacking Bush or calling for resignations.

McCain has repeated ad nauseum, for months and months now, the idea that Obama voted against and/or strongly opposed "the Surge". If Von and others think he is being perfectly clear and consistent here in his definition of "a surge" (note, "a" not "the", it seems to be a generic term now, one whose definition you'd expect to see in Websters), in which it is a collection of *tactics*, including but not limited to "clearing and holding" and "increasing troop numbers", then they had best demonstrate Obama's voting against and/or opposing the tactic, "clearing and holding". Else, Obama can not be accused of opposing "the Surge", but just one tactic, the troop increase, and one that was clearly not responsible for the Sunni Awakening.

Can't have it both ways, folks. But of course this is all just ridiculous. Everyone in America understands the surge to be the surge (aka, increase) of troops. I can't wait for McCain to explain his new definition in a debate.

Thatemailname, telling hilzoy to "go back to school and get an education" is a sorry reflection on your intelligence -- and your manners.

Get some.

von: Nate, this wasn't "obvious" to most of the Democratic members of Congress. So the criticism, aside from being unfair, is untrue.

More accurately, Von, what happened was that Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a successful occupation of Iraq couldn't be done without several hundred thousand troops - presumably, he had in mind U.S. Central Command OPLAN 1003-98, which specified 500,000.

Rumsfeld had already made clear his opposition to the military expert's estimate of 500,000, and Shinseki did not want to appear in direct conflict with the President and the Secretary of Defense.

Wolfowitz, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, said to the House Budget Committee on February 27, 2003:

There has been a good deal of comment - some of it quite outlandish - about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. Some of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army - hard to imagine.

It's meiosis to claim that it wasn't "obvious" to members of Congres "that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. were going to invade Iraq with far too few troops to properly secure the country": say rather that it was deliberately obscured.

Thatemailname, telling hilzoy to "go back to school and get an education" is a sorry reflection on your intelligence -- and your manners.

It's probably not worth noting that hilzoy has a Ph.D in philosophy and teaches at a rather prestigious university, as well as having a whole lot more hard-to-understand evidence of her rather advanced education, including but certainly not limited to her body of work here.

So, our new friend may disagree with hilzoy, but the notion that she's uneducated is so trivially easy to refute that one wonders about the level of perception of the guy who said it.

Perhaps we Obama supporters should simply give McCain his due on the Surge and acknowledge that he got it right.

That said, what else has he gotten right?

What else does he propose to do to make this country a better place?

What will he do to "Surge" the economy -- other than a gas-tax holiday?

By the way, it's nice to see that Sen. Obama doesn't need Joe Lieberman or Lindsey Graham whispering answers into his ear during his overseas press conferences.

Slartibartfast, sorry but my perceptions can indeed be rather basic. It is what is.

I'm glad to see that the media is actually calling McCain on one of his mistakes.

However, I don't rteally find this particular mistake all that important. To me the important issue is this: if the surge(however you define it) was successful, then why is McCain arguing that we should ignore the will of the people and Prime Minister of Iraq and stay? he equates staying with winning. He equates a planned withdrawal on a time table with losing. THAT's what's completely bogus. And that's where I think he needs to be attacked.

Was that *changes* in counterinsurgency strategy, or belated *adoption* of counterinsurgency strategy?

Adoption is probably more precise.

But the surge is not itself the counterinsurgency strategy in its entirety. Or at least it wasn't before yesterday.

No, the Surge was about bringing a counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq.

And when people opposed sending more troops to Iraq as the surge, they were not opposing using COIN tactics. Actually, many of the Surge opponents were calling for COIN tactics from the beginning (hearts and minds after all is COIN dogma).

And Surge opponents were not against Sadr calling for a cease fire. And they were not against Sunni outreach and collaboration vs. AQI. And they were not against the sectarian violence dying down (tragically, as a result of the sectarian cleansing already undertaken).

No, but again, they were against providing the troops requested to support each of these endeavors.

And that's the real rub: You're right that no one was against these things. And perhaps the last year would have occurred without the surge, or despite an ongoing drawdown in troops (which many in Congress, including Obama, were demanding). But it doesn't seem likely.

Yes, Anbar preceeded the Surge and was successful before the Surge.
Posted by: von | July 24, 2008 at 09:51 AM

Thanks. 'nuff said.

And that's the real rub: You're right that no one was against these things. And perhaps the last year would have occurred without the surge, or despite an ongoing drawdown in troops (which many in Congress, including Obama, were demanding). But it doesn't seem likely.

That's what it boils down to Von. That and this:

Let's take the situation with the extra troops, the benefit that resulted and add in the costs.

Then take the situation without the extra troops, the benefit that would have resulted and add in the costs.

Compare.

This gets at a few points:

1. Now what? Literally. Are the gains permanent? Sustainable? If not, what was gained?

2. What people keep forgetting is that the Sunni sheiks that began to probe the alliance with the US in Anbar were heavily motivated by the Dem victory and the increasing likelihood of withdrawal.

That is, the specter of withdrawal motivated them to reach out to the US. They knew that the curtain was closing, and that were not going to be the long term occupier in need of targeting.

Or so they thought.

And that's the real rub: You're right that no one was against these things. And perhaps the last year would have occurred without the surge, or despite an ongoing drawdown in troops (which many in Congress, including Obama, were demanding). But it doesn't seem likely.

Allow me to reiterate Von, this really is a fine distillation of the issues.

Well done.

It allows for the non-surge related occurences (Sadr cease fire, grisly peace gained by sectarian cleansing, walling off of Baghdad, Anbar Awakening (partially at least)) to be separated out.

Ultimately: I think the addition of troops did have an impact apart from those, and it did help somewhat. I just don't think that it was it the main driver behind the positive trends, or that the positive trends will last unless we get to the real issues.

What the surge was supposed to deliver: long lasting, durable political comrpomises.

We associate "The Surge" with the deployment of extra troops to Iraq beginning around Jan 2007, but it was much more than that. It involved a change in overall strategy as well as implementation of new tactics at the ground level.

The strategy behind it was actually coalescing from various entrepreneurial approaches developed at the tactical level the preceding year.

Regardless, Obama had nothing to do with this success, the US Army and US Marines did. Without the surge, the new tactics would probably have been fruitless and the Anbar Awakening short-lived.

"Are the gains permanent? Sustainable?"

McCain must think they are not - or why else is he so hesistant to get on with a withdrawal?

Slartibartfast, sorry but my perceptions can indeed be rather basic. It is what is.

I wasn't referring to you so much as the person you were responding to you, btfb.

I never realized just how far synecdochic literalism could be taken.

If taking and holding an area, killing and not killing people in the process, are, according to John McCain, the beginning of counterinsurgency and thus the surge, then credit for the surge belongs to Rudy Giuliani. Plungers forever!

As far as the drop in violence in Al Anbar and elsewhere, first and most important was the Sunni tribes and their respective militants disgust with Al Quaeda and their bloody tactics.

There were only two brigades, I think, of Marines sent to Al Anbar, or about 6 or 7 thousand men. They would not have put a dent in the AQI murderous car bombings without local Iraqi's cooperation in identifying and willingness in killing their former allies.

Even 60 thousand more US troops would not have worked. In fact, in several firefights the locals had with AQ, the US tried to help with extra firepower but couldn't tell friend or foe and ended up killing friendly Sunni's instead of AQ. Not surprisingly, they were asked to butt out.

Now maybe talk of the a surge by the US had some bearing on Sunni willingness to cooperate, but that is unlikely. More likely was a decision to stand down (temporarily) for reasons of internal Iraqi politics.

I always thought Surge was supposed to deliver a clean washload. Under the McCain synechdochic definition, if , upon Awakening, you feel a surge lasting more than four hours, see a doctor immediately.

Without the surge, the new tactics would probably have been fruitless and the Anbar Awakening short-lived.

This is an empirical question. We can't know for sure what would have happened without the surge. But we do know that it's not, in fact, a matter of "history" that the surge "began" the Anbar Awakening. That's the point of this post. John McCain was wrong. And he was smugly deriding Obama at the time he was wrong. Which kinda makes him a Moran.

Von,

Not clear what you are debating. Once you agree to this:

"Yes, Anbar preceeded the Surge and was successful before the Surge."

you have conceded hilzoy's core point.

There were only two brigades, I think, of Marines sent to Al Anbar, or about 6 or 7 thousand men.

I read that number was closer to 4-5 thousand FWIW.

John McCain's own words on January 5, 2007 (emphasis mine):

There are two keys to any surge of U.S. troops. To be of value the surge must be substantial and it must be sustained -- it must be substantial and it must be sustained.

We will need a large number of troops. During our recent trip commanders on the ground spoke of a surge of three to five additional brigades in Baghdad and at least an additional brigade in Anbar province.

I believe these numbers are the minimum that's required -- a minimum.

Later, he said...

By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis and their partners the best possible chances to succeed.

So John McCain described the surge in FUTURE tense. He did not say we had been surging for 6 months, he spoke of what "we will need" and "we will give". Therefore, his own definition of the surge at that time was a future event consisting of an increase in troops. Plain and unambiguous English. Hilzoy is 100% correct.

If anybody can't grasp that, give up attempting to analyze anything. This one's a slam dunk ... a real one, not the Bush/CIA/WMD kind.

McCain did misspeak on timing, but not on the strategy. "Surge" is a term that has sloppily used, and too often it's been interchanged with "surge strategy" or "COIN strategy", etc.

But the Anbar Awakening was itself a COIN strategy, and Col. MacFarland wrote about it here. On the larger issue, McCain is accurate in making the point that Obama is denying that the surge strategy has contributed to the improvements in Iraq.

What bothers me about this whole debate is this. Obama was downtalking the Petraeus strategy, and one of the reasons Obama gave was that the Awakening movement started first, implying that the Petraeus strategy had nothing to do with said movement, as if the Awakenings and the surge strategy operated on separate and independent tracks. It's a false and misleading notion that Obama was trotting out. The Petraeus strategy is the Anbar strategy is the Awakening strategy. McCain has been right for over four years that this was the course we should've been taking.

The plan that incented the sheiks to join in Anbar is virtually the same as what Petraeus implemented country-wide. Obama seemed agreeable to how the Awakening movement proceeded, which brings him to this obvious contradiction: If Obama approves of the Awakenings (and it sure looks like he does), then he must also be approving of the counterinsurgency strategy that birthed and grew it. Yet, Obama has outright rejected the same strategy when it was applied to a larger area of operations.

And here's another contradiction. Obama outright rejected the troop increase AND strategy in Iraq, yet he favors a troop increase in Afghanistan and has said nothing about those troops would do when they get to Karzai country. If he proposes a proper COIN strategy, then he would look like a hypocrite, so I have serious doubts that he would recommend such a plan. For Obama, COIN is the strategy that must not be named. Or credited. For obviously political reasons.

Sen. Obama doesn't need Joe Lieberman or Lindsey Graham whispering answers into his ear during his overseas press conferences.

Hell, Sens. Reed and Hagel are decorative background fixtures, apparently, at least while Obama with Obama in public. The Daily Show last night showed a clip of Hagel declining to join in on an answer to a press question even when invited by Sen. Obama.

Von,

Not clear what you are debating. Once you agree to this:

"Yes, Anbar preceeded the Surge and was successful before the Surge."

you have conceded hilzoy's core point.

No shit. And yet, why is that sooooo hard to grasp for some of these people here?

It's as if these people have a Humpty Dumpty ability that complements McCain's: He can make words mean anything, even if it's patently absurd and just plain b.s., and these people can make themselves believe it, even if it's patently absurd and just plain b.s.

Humpty McDumpty and his Bobble-Head Brigade. So much stupid it almost hurts.

I always thought Surge was supposed to deliver a clean washload. Under the McCain synechdochic definition, if , upon Awakening, you feel a surge lasting more than four hours, see a doctor immediately.

This raises a good point. When I hear the word Surge, I tend to think of something that is intended to prevent the situation under which an Awakening could occur. Well, perhaps that's an unfair interpretation; one could also look at it as something intended to prolong an Awakening that had already occurred. That, and rot your Teeth.

But in either case, I suppose I'm livin' in the past...

Obama is denying that the surge strategy has contributed to the improvements in Iraq.

False. In terms of Obama opposing COIN as a strategy, as oppose to opposing increasing the number of soldiers, can you explain why you believe that ? If your answer is just, as I perhaps mistakenly assume, that he favored withdrawal, that's no basis at all for what you're saying unless you define supporting COIN in general to mean believing that the best possible strategy for Iraq in 2007 was COIN.


No, the Surge was about bringing a counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq.

von,

I hate to keep chewing on this same bone, but this just does not seem to me to be an accurate statement. The strategy used in Anbar was notably different from those employed later in central-eastern and southern Iraq, based on local differences peculiar to Anbar - the most salient of which being a local population which was alienated on ethnic and sectarian lines from the central govt. in Baghdad, and which we pacified by playing down those points of friction.

I just don't see how you can claim that Anbar was some sort of prototype for the strategy employed in Baghdad and environs, when the differences between them are so obvious, and not in a trivial area but rather cutting right to the heart of why the Anbar Awakening worked so well to reduce violence and pacify the province.

I'll ask again: where in the later areas which The Surge focused on, are the former insurgent groups which we've co-opted by training and in some cases arming them?

The closest analog to the Sunni leaders who switched from supporting the insurgency to being on our side as a result of the Anbar Awakening in central-eastern and southern Iraq would be Moqtada Al Sadr and his militia. When did we start training JAM in order to co-opt the Sadrist movement? I must have missed that somehow.

It seems to me that McCain is attempting to conflate (for obvious political purposes) something which Obama and a great many other people did not support: the sending of additional combat brigades to Iraq instead of making an attempt to implement the recommendations of the ISG, with something which neither Obama nor many (if any) of the people in opposition to the former policy were actually opposed to: better use of COIN doctrine to shift the tactical and strategic focus in Iraq so as to make better use of the troops we had in Iraq irrespective of their numbers. To claim that Obama or anyone else was opposed to doing this seems to me to be a grotesque distortion.

Now you can make a case that a shift in COIN strategy might not have succeeded without the additional brigades which were actually sent – but note that this then raises the question as to why the troops:population ratio stipulated in the COIN manual written by Gen. Petraeus was not used to determine the necessary troop levels for the Surge (the actual number was distinctly smaller than the ratios suggested by the book), and how it is that the correct troop level to make the new strategy work as well as it did was obtained by anything other than sheer dumb luck. IIRC the Surge was announced and implemented not with a lot of triumphal declarations that it would without question succeed, but rather with the declaration that amongst a variety of not very appealing options it was our best remaining shot. For those who supported it to now claim that it was obviously correct from the get-go and anyone who wasn’t onboard was a fool is to rewrite history.

In fact from my perspective the elephant in the room which nobody seems to want to discuss is that the success which the Surge has enjoyed to date has been purchased with the currency of an unofficial soft partition of Iraq. IMHO the reason why a great many more troops were not needed to implement a COIN strategy across the entire country is that both Anbar and northern Iraq were effectively taken “off the board” in terms of needing large numbers of troops to maintain adequate ratios vs. the population, by cutting deals with local Sunni and Kurdish elites which effectively undercut the authority of the central govt. to the point where the country has undergone an informal partition between the Shia, the Sunni tribes in Anbar, and the Kurdish north. We have in a quiet sneaky way implemented something akin the Biden plan, in order to economize on the amount of force needed to run COIN operations so we can concentrate on central-eastern and southern Iraq where the intra-Shia contest is still unresolved.

For now, this looks with benefit of hindsight like a good choice – we have obtained better results than would otherwise be the case, without committing a much larger force which an across the board COIN strategy would have demanded, and which was politically implausible in late 2006/2007. The question is, will there be a price to be paid later, which we may come to regret. What happens if this state of affairs is no longer acceptable to the central govt. in Baghdad? It seems to me that this issue is likely to come to a head with the struggle over the Kirkuk region and the regional elections in the north. If that struggle explodes into widespread violence, or the now trained and armed Sunni groups in Anbar rise in revolt against the Maliki govt., then on balance the Surge may not look like such a good decision after all.

IMHO, YMMV, etc.

My friends, I want to be clear about my record and my experience.

The 'surge', MY surge, created the Internet.

Now vote for me, John McCain, or you'll all die.

False. In terms of Obama opposing COIN as a strategy, as oppose to opposing increasing the number of soldiers, can you explain why you believe that

Your link doesn't say what you suggest, wd. Obama was crediting other factors for the improved conditions, then he gave the troops credit, all the while giving no credit for the strategy that the troops executed. Pretty slick maneuver. Obama's own bill is a direct and completion rejection of the strategy, and like he's been frequently saying, he's been consistent about his position.

The Petraeus strategy is the Anbar strategy is the Awakening strategy. McCain has been right for over four years that this was the course we should've been taking.

McCain was saying for four years that we should be reaching out to Sunnis in Anbar to collaborate against AQI? Do you have any links that show McCain calling for this four years ago? Three? Two?

The plan that incented the sheiks to join in Anbar is virtually the same as what Petraeus implemented country-wide.

No it's not. Can you provide the Southern, Shiite analogue?

Obama seemed agreeable to how the Awakening movement proceeded, which brings him to this obvious contradiction: If Obama approves of the Awakenings (and it sure looks like he does), then he must also be approving of the counterinsurgency strategy that birthed and grew it. Yet, Obama has outright rejected the same strategy when it was applied to a larger area of operations.

No. He rejected the troop increase but did not reject the COIN strategy and/or the Sunni outreach. This is false, and your link does not prove what you claim: that Obama opposed employing COIN and Sunni outreach.

You know Charles, for someone that admits that McCain might have mispoke, you seem to be getting spun around yourself a bit.

CB, wrong. Obama has clearly said that the increase in the number of troops played a role, rigyhtly, IMO, saying that other factors were as important or more important. Even the Iraqi government doesn't give the Surge any credit.

Secondly, throughout this thread, people have referred to the Anbar Awakening as being an example of COIN succeeding. Baloney.
We lucked into the Awakening. COIN involves reaching out to the local population, bringing them into your fold, then working with them against an insurgency.
The sheiks came to us, not because of anything we did, but because they were getting fed up with al Qaeda in Iraq and saw that as an excellent way to get money from us. Sure we embraced their actions, but to call it COIN is ridiculous.
We did not win the hearts and minds of the sheiks, only their pocketbooks.

To clarify:

If Obama approves of the Awakenings (and it sure looks like he does), then he must also be approving of the counterinsurgency strategy that birthed and grew it.

Are you saying that the surge of troops gave birth to the Awakenings?

I thought we established already that this is metaphysically impossible.

If not, what was the COIN strategy that gave birth to the Awakenings, and where is the evidence that Obama opposed that strategy?

OMG, now I know. It wasn't the dog that ate my homework...it was the SURGE.

At this point, this argument is getting ridiculous. OK--the ridiculous started with McCain's new and unimproved surge definition, but now we're beyond ridiculous.

He rejected the troop increase but did not reject the COIN strategy and/or the Sunni outreach.

Eric, show me where Obama has embraced COIN doctrine, or even given it credit. His own bill is titled the Iraq War De-Escalation Act. The COIN that Petraeus implemented was an escalation, and that's exactly what you liberals called it last Jan-Feb of 2007. Petraeus took soldiers out FOBs and put 'em on the streets and in combat outposts, just like MacFarland did in Anbar. Had you bothered to read MacFarland's account, you would've seen that.

Oh, and I didn't say that Obama opposed Sunni outreach. I don't doubt that Obama likes to reach out, with or without preconditions. I said Obama opposed the strategy that caused the Sunni outreach to succeed.

Since November 2003, McCain has called for both more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. See the timeline for yourself. Quote:

To win in Iraq, we should increase the number of forces in-country, including Marines and Special Forces, to conduct offensive operations. I believe we must have in place another full division, giving us the necessary manpower to conduct a focused counterinsurgency campaign across the Sunni triangle that seals off enemy operating areas, conducts search and destroy operations and holds territory. Such a strategy would be the kind of new mission General Sanchez agreed would require additional forces. It's a mystery to me why they are not forthcoming. We cannot achieve our political goals as long as a strategic region of Iraq is in a state of fundamental insecurity." (Sen. John McCain, Remarks To Council On Foreign Relations, Washington, DC 11/5/03)

At that time McCain, COIN had been well established doctrine for decades, utilized primarily by the Marines, per their Small Wars Manual.

Charles Bird:

"McCain has been right for over four years that this was the course we should've been taking."

The policy was

a) military aggression against a nation that posed no threat

b) decreasing the welfare of an Iraqi populace already reeling from sanctions and a brutal dictator:

b1) causing the deaths of many 10s of thousannds of Iraqi civlians

b2) causing the internal displacement and exile of millions of Iraqis

b3) lowering the general health of Iraqis

b4) creating an opportunity for terrorists, criminals, and religous extremists to intimidate and prey upon the Iraqi populace

b5) reversing the progressive social mobility of women in Iraqi society

c) creating numerous war crimes, including the imprisonment and torture of innocent civilians

d) causing the deaths of over 4,000 US military personel

e) throwing away hundreds of billions of dollars in an effort that gives the US no percievable economic, miliatary, or strategic benefit

f) emotionally and economically damaging thousands of American lives

g) undermining US democracy by starting a war based on numerous half-truths, misleading statements, and lies to the American populace

g) harming the United States image in the world

h) harming the United States diplomatically

i) weakening and over-stretching the US military

j) potentially missing an opportunity to pursue Islamic radical threats in Afghanistan

k) increasing anti-US terrorist recruitement in Western & Central Asia and elsewhere


Amidst this foreign policy disaster, the likes of which we have not seen since Vietnam and which may yet shadow Vietnam, the Republican party offers "the Surge", one of many factors to have reduced the violence in current Iraq.

This surge itself has failed on its own terms to accomplish this goal.

You are grasping at one tiny blade of yellow green grass amidst a lawn that has throroughly deterioated into a patch of weed-strewn crusty soil.

Pathetic.


"McCain was a critic of Rumsfeld's approach all the way back to early 2004 - he repeatedly argued for increased troop levels and pointedly criticized Bush throughout."
That's what McCain has claimed in recent times. The facts are less black and white. (I include some other salient quotes.)

McCain Praises Bush Administration on Iraq. QUESTION: Are you proud of the work and the leadership of the Commander in Chief in this war? MCCAIN:
Yes I am. I think the President has led with great clarity and I think he's done a great job leading the country [Hardball, 4/23/03] and MCCAIN: We've
got to stay the course and speeches like the President's last night, I think, are important. [CBS Early Show, 6/29/05]

McCain Praises Rumsfeld. QUESTION: Is it your view that Donald Rumsfeld can continue to be an effective Secretary of Defense? MCCAIN: Yes, today I do and I believe he's done a fine job. He's an honorable man. [Hannity & Colmes, 5/12/04]

[...]

February 2005: McCain Said War Would Take A Year to a Year and a Half.
[2006] MCCAIN: "If I had to guess, I would think that it's going to be at least another year to a year and a half, but, hopefully before then we could have our troops out of a lot of the areas where they're vulnerable to casualties." [CBS, "The Early Show," 2/3/05

Second link:
[...] * McCain voted against holding Bush accountable for his actions in the war. McCain opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the development and use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. [S. Amdt. 1275 to H.R. 2658, Vote # 284, 7/16/03]

* McCain praised Bush’s leadership on the war. McCain: “I think the president has led with great clarity and I think he’s done a great job leading the country…” [MSNBC, Hardball, 4/23/03]

Senator McCain has constantly moved the goal posts of progress for the war—repeatedly saying it would be over soon.

* January 2003: “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” [MSNBC, 1/22/03]

* March 2003: “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03]

* June 2004: “The terrorists know that this is a very critical time.” [CNN, 6/23/04]

* December 2005: “Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course.” [The Hill, 12/8/05]

* November 2006: “We’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/12/06]

Senator McCain opposed efforts to end the overextension of the military that is having a devastating impact on our troops.

* McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in Iraq. [S. Amdt.. 2909 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 341, 9/19/07; S Amdt. 2012 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote #241, 7/11/07]

* McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote against adding $430 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans. [S Amdt. 3642 to HR 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06]

Washingtonpost.com:
[...] As he gets closer to the Republican nomination, John McCain has been trying to balance his unqualified support for the Iraq war by reminding audiences that he was also a tough critic of the way it was managed until President Bush finally changed strategies a year ago. In recent weeks, McCain has gone so far as to tell audiences that he was "the only one" who called for then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation.

The only trick is he never did, at least not publicly. The senator from Arizona was a tough critic of Rumsfeld and more than once declared that he had no confidence in the Pentagon chief in the two years before Bush finally dumped him in November 2006. But even as he was criticizing Rumsfeld, McCain typically stopped short of calling for the defense secretary to step down on the grounds that it was up to the president to decide who served in his
Cabinet.

McCain has rewritten that history a couple of times lately. While campaigning in Fort Myers, Fla., on Jan. 26, he told a crowd: "In the conflict that we're in, I'm the only one that said we have to abandon the Rumsfeld strategy -- and Rumsfeld -- and adopt a new strategy." Four days later during a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., aired on CNN, McCain said, "I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go."

A McCain spokesman acknowledged yesterday that was not correct. "He did not call for his resignation," said the campaign's Brian Rogers. "He always said that's the president's prerogative." Asked specifically about the senator's statements in Florida and California, Rogers said, "I think he's really just pointing out that he's the only one who really called out the Rumsfeld strategy, and that is certainly true again and again."

McCain's enhanced version of his opposition to Rumsfeld has come as he begins to wrap up the Republican nomination and pivot toward the general election, where his embrace of the war presumably will not prove as popular as it has been with the Republican base. McCain's false account has been unwittingly incorporated into the narrative he is selling by some news organizations, including The Washington Post, that have repeated his assertion that he called for Rumsfeld's resignation, even though he did not.

I believe the link provided by Charles Bird nicely sums up how wrong McCain was. The "tipping point", per that document, occurred prior to the arrival of surge troops and troops were being pulled out of Ramadi before the surge troops were in place.

Moreover, the document states precisely when the Awakening began, and it had little relation with any purported change in strategy.

The surge was a specific component of an overall strategy. The idea that the surge = the whole of that strategy, as is being argued by McCain is nonsense.

He was demonstrably wrong. The fact that he cannot simply admit as such is very telling.

Obama supporters and leftists: the talking points are as follows,

McCain doesn't understand the basic facts of an issue that supposedly defines his expertise and unique competence.

Obama voted against the war, McCain voted for it. Thus McCain takes responsibility for the foreign policy disaster more so than the recent leveling off of violence in Iraq, whereas the supposedly "naive and inexperienced" Obama showed judgement and wisdom well beyond his years.

Had we voted against the surge, we would have saved lives and treasure, we may have seen the same reduction in violence.

Had we voted aginst the war, we would have avoided this monumental 5 1/2 year foreign policy disaster.

Eric, show me where Obama has embraced COIN doctrine, or even given it credit. His own bill is titled the Iraq War De-Escalation Act.

Wait a minute, you said that Obama opposed COIN doctrine. Thus, it is incumbent on you to show me where he opposed it. I don't prove the negative. His own bill is silent as to COIN doctrine. That is a non-sequitur.

The COIN that Petraeus implemented was an escalation, and that's exactly what you liberals called it last Jan-Feb of 2007.

See, this is where you and McCain get tripped up. You want to count the Sunni outreach/COIN under the surge umbrella, and then use that as a cudgel to beat anyone that opposed the troop increase. The Sunni outreach was NOT an escalation. That is wrong.

Petraeus took soldiers out FOBs and put 'em on the streets and in combat outposts, just like MacFarland did in Anbar. Had you bothered to read MacFarland's account, you would've seen that.

I have read MacFarland's account. But that is not an escalation, that is just a different posture for the same troops. Movement, not increase.

Oh, and I didn't say that Obama opposed Sunni outreach. I don't doubt that Obama likes to reach out, with or without preconditions. I said Obama opposed the strategy that caused the Sunni outreach to succeed.

But that's not even what MacFarland said. Had you bothered to read his account, you would know that. MacFarland said that what the Democrats' victory in the midterms enabled his approach to succeed. And he didn't have extra troops from the surge because he did what he did before those extra troops arrived.

According to MacFarland:

"A growing concern that the U.S. would leave Iraq and leave the Sunnis defenseless against Al-Qaeda and Iranian-supported militias made these younger [tribal] leaders [who led the Awakening] open to our overtures."

As for your McCain quote, it says nothing about the Awakenings strategy that you said he has been calling for for years. You said:

The Petraeus strategy is the Anbar strategy is the Awakening strategy. McCain has been right for over four years that this was the course we should've been taking.

Do you have any links to McCain calling for the Awakening strategy four years ago? Three? Two?

The NYT settles the issue by going to an independent expert--Michael O'Hanlon. Sigh

von said... No, the Surge was about bringing a counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq.

Charles Bird said... The plan that incented the sheiks to join in Anbar is virtually the same as what Petraeus implemented country-wide.

False. The plan for the Anbar Awakening was to arm Sunni militias and have them turn on Al Qaeda. This would have been impossible to "implement country-wide" since AQ hid amongst the Sunnis, not the Shiites, because THEY ARE SUNNI.

It appears that several people still have the same problems that McCain does in differentiating Sunni, Shiite, and AQ.

So everybody is getting after McCain about the chronology, yet not a thing has been said about Barack Obama saying the Anbar Awakening happened in part as a result of the Novemnber 2006 elections. Of course, it started months before the November 2006 elections.

http://www.ontheissues.org/Archive/2008_Dems_Facebook_War_+_Peace.htm

McCain has clearly explained that he is using the phrase "the surge" to encompass the larger counterinsurgent strategy. It's shorthand. A little confusing, maybe, but it holds together fine.

Amazingly, I see people here pointing out that the surge was NOT the entire strategy, and then condemnding McCain. If they'd read what's being said, they'd notice that this is precisely what McCain is saying: the SURGE in troops was part of a larger overall strategy. He calls this strategy "the surge" for the sake of brevity, and because for better or worse that's what it's come to be known as. As confusing as this may be, it'd be far more confusing to try to give it a new name synonymous enough with recent progress so as to avoid explaining it every time.

This is a really, really poor blog entry. Half of it is obtuse misunderstand, the other is juvenile mocking. Someone should buzz Andrew Sullivan and tell him what's happenening to his blog while he's off.

"The world is a safer place because Iraq is a safer place. Anytime violence is reduced in one place, it redounds to global security. If you don't buy that premise, then you are *excusing* all sorts of terror."

Indeed, Stalin's reduction of violence in the Soviet Union rebounded to global security, then. If you don't buy that premise, then you are *excusing* all sorts of terror."

Another great step forward in global security:

[...] It was Mao who set the pattern of the Chinese Communist terror in his 1949 tract, On People's Democratic Dictatorship. Said Mao: "The reactionaries must be deprived of the right to voice their opinion." One of Mao's lieutenants, writing in the Peking Current Affairs, wryly but grimly spelled out how to proceed: "Execution means fundamental physical elimination of counterrevolutionaries, and is of course the most thorough measure for depriving counter-revolutionaries of the conditions for counterrevolution ary activity."

[...]

The Resistance of Millions. Lo's career in the People's Republic began in 1949 when Mao ordered him to take China's fragmented police forces in hand and transform them into a unified Communist whole. At that moment (the time of the U.S. State Department's White Paper, writing off China), much of the country was in chaos, the Communists' hold was anything but sure, and probably 60% of the existing police were ex-Nationalist holdovers. Simultaneously, Lo had to direct a series of armed struggles with guerrillas and bandit gangs which amounted to a nationwide extension of the civil war long after the outer world had been assured that there was no further conflict.

But Lo soon saw that the real resistance to Communist regimentation lay not in the rifles of a few thousand guerrillas, but in millions of hearts. In 1950 he told a Peking Public Security Administration Conference that the suppression of "counterrevolutionaries" was the first necessity of the new state, that it would be a continuing necessity, and its scope and difficulties would increase rather than decrease as the revolution continued. On this thesis Lo built his rise to power.

At the outset Lo had used Chinese Red army troops for his pacification act. The Conference authorized him to create a new, politically conscious People's Armed Police like the Soviet MVD militia. Lo recruited and trained, technically and ideologically, thousands of trusted party workers and intellectuals, at the same time purging the existing forces of doubtful elements. He soon fashioned an organization of some eight interlocking bureaus specializing in intelligence, counterespionage, personnel, economic defense (i.e., preventing strikes, collecting taxes), frontier defense, anti-guerrilla work, supervising forced labor camps and normal police duties. Total strength: approximately 700,000.

And so the world was made a safer place because China was a safer place. Anytime violence is reduced in one place, it redounds to global security. No excuses if you deny this!

"I wonder if some of this is that you weren't aware at the time (2006, 2007) of the changes in counterinsurgency strategy."

Gee, I well remember trying to explain to some folks on this blog even earlier that there hadn't been a counter-insurgency strategy, and being told that there sure was, because we were fighting insurgents, and there was a strategy, so Q.E.D. and how stupid was anyone who disagreed?

To be sure, such comments came from some lifelong Republican longtime contributors here. I'll not embarrass anyone with quotes unless necessary.

But the rightwingosphere was, back then, filled with denunciations of anyone who criticized The Winning Bush Strategy and of anyone who claimed that there was an insurgency at all, let alone that We Weren't Winning. Does the term "loser-defeatists" being applied to those who said there was no counter-insurgency strategy, and that the Bush/Rumsfeld approach wasn't working, ring a bell?

"Hilzoy, it's you who are inadvertently rewriting history because you don't know the history."

Mindreading foul: 3 points.

"No, the Surge was about bringing a counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq."

This is twisting English beyond usefulness. The "surge" was the surge: sending more brigades of troops. That's all. If you want to talk about other changes in strategy, fine. Retroactive changes in meaning don't fly.

But by "fly," I mean, and have always meant "I put on a batsuit every night and fight crime, because criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot."

"Regardless, Obama had nothing to do with this success, the US Army and US Marines did."

As usual from so many American commentators, Iraqis are invisible as regards what happens in Iraq. They are never actors: only Americans, and particularly the American military, are.

And down the memory hole goes the huge popularity on sites such as Protein Wisdom, and so many others, that the actual problem was that we were "fighting with one hand tied behind our back" and that the actual solution was to kill as many Iraqis as possible, because violence is all they understand, and thus they'd be intimidated and thus We'd Win.

And anyone who objected to this, and called for winning hearts and minds with a traditional counter-insurgency approach, was a terrorist-sympathizing, mush-headed, liberal who wanted to apply therapy and wimpiness, thus proving that Democrats/liberals could never be trusted with national security/military issues.

Your link doesn't say what you suggest, wd. Obama was crediting other factors for the improved conditions, then he gave the troops credit, all the while giving no credit for the strategy that the troops executed.

Your claim, the one I said was false, was that "Obama is denying that the surge strategy has contributed to the improvements in Iraq." You now want to differentiate between him saying that the increased number of soldiers (which he opposed) contributed to the improvements in Iraq, which he says in my link, and him saying that the increased number of soldiers using a counter-insurgency strategy (which he didn't oppose) contributed to the improvements in Iraq, and further hold that by not saying the latter he is denying that the surge strategy (the one to escalate the number of soldiers in Iraq) contributed? to the improvements?

If that's the case we've clarified our differences; I'm somewhat doubtful that you've consistently used the words "surge strategy" to mean something other than the increased number of soldiers, and you would still have no support for your claim that Obama is denying that the surge strategy contributed to improvements.

Jeepers, we need a counter-insurgency strategy against open tags.

Mr F.:

The confusion arises because McCain uses the Surge to mean only the increase in troops (when he criticizes Obama for "opposing the surge") and then uses the surge to mean everything that has gone our way over the past 12-18 months (when he tries to tie Obama's opposition to a troop increase to mean opposition to Awakenings, common sense COIN and what has resulted from other unrelated factors (Sadr cease fire, sectarian cleansing, walling off of Baghdad, etc)).

"The world is a safer place because Iraq is a safer place. Anytime violence is reduced in one place, it redounds to global security. If you don't buy that premise, then you are *excusing* all sorts of terror. Do you not believe that the world would be a better place if Mugabe and his thug brigades were in prison, or if the warlords that are perpetrating genocide in Darfur were dead? The executions of Saddam, Uday and Qusay, and Zarqawi ABSOLUTELY made the world a safer place. Any claim to the contrary is, at the very least, "obtuse"."

This is an incomplete analysis at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst.

First, Iraq may be a safer place than it was in say, mid-2006, but it's not a safer place than it was in 2002.

Second, this analysis ignores opportunity costs. Namely, that without ANY Iraq invasion whatsoever, and with a proper focus on Afghanistan, the world would be safer than 1) it was in early 2001 2) it was before any *surge* or *surge-related-programs-activities*, and especially 3) it is now.

So if you're going to bring all kinds of other examples of evil in the world to the calculus, you need to make a case for why invading Iraq and the time we did, and when we did, maximized anti-evil utility. That's a very hard case.

So McCain uses the "Surge" for brevity...I guess that means COIN was too short?

Anytime violence is reduced in one place, it redounds to global security.

So the world was a safer place after the fall of France in 1940 than it was during the invasion of Poland in 1939, because the violence had stopped. Got it.

"And here's another contradiction. Obama outright rejected the troop increase AND strategy in Iraq, yet he favors a troop increase in Afghanistan and has said nothing about those troops would do when they get to Karzai country. If he proposes a proper COIN strategy, then he would look like a hypocrite, so I have serious doubts that he would recommend such a plan."

So your assertion, then, Charles, is that even now there is no proper counter-insurgency strategy being run in Afghanistan by President Bush and his appointees? Have you been posting about this loser-defeatist failure anywhere?

"Since November 2003, McCain has called for both more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy."

Fascinating, Charles: how about a recap of your positions on how well Bush's strategies were doing in 2003 and 2004? Did, you, too, always criticize them as obvious failures?

"I believe we must have in place another full division, giving us the necessary manpower to conduct a focused counterinsurgency campaign across the Sunni triangle that seals off enemy operating areas, conducts search and destroy operations and holds territory."

It's your claim then, that military operations in which U.S. troops engaged in search and destroy operations against Sunni insurgents is what has led to a lessening of violence in Anbar province? That "search and destroy" is the heart of COIN, and that such military operations are the primary tool that has lessened violence in Anbar? Also fascinating, if so.

"This is a really, really poor blog entry. Half of it is obtuse misunderstand, the other is juvenile mocking. Someone should buzz Andrew Sullivan and tell him what's happenening to his blog while he's off."

Your sense of understanding of things does seem rather consistent, fella. This isn't Andrew Sullivan's blog.

P.S. You also ignored the knock-on effect of additional terror recruitment enhanced by our invasion of Iraq, per the 2006 NIE.

The international perception of Afghanistan being a far more just intervention than Iraq meant it entailed far fewer unintended consequences like that.

So like I said, that's a very hard case.

Jay, I followed your link and assume you mean this statement by Obama, "Sunni tribes, who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, the Americans may be leaving soon. We should start negotiating now."

Here's what Col. McFarland (the guy who John McCain likes to cite to, I'm sure you remember him) had to say about that:
Why We Succeeded
learly, a combination of factors, some of which we may not yet fully understand, contributed to this pivotal success. As mentioned before, the enemy overplayed its hand and the people were tired of Al-Qaeda. A series of assassinations had elevated younger, more aggressive tribal leaders to positions of influence. A growing concern that the U.S. would leave Iraq and leave the Sunnis defenseless against Al-Qaeda and Iranian-supported militias made these younger leaders open to our overtures.

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Whatnot


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