McCain on the Surge
8:37 AM, Jul 23, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
John McCain is drawing criticism for the following exchange with Katie Couric:
As Frederick Kagan wrote in September 2007: "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."
If McCain was saying that Col. McFarland's counterinsurgency approach "began the Anbar Awakening" then that's pretty much on the mark. The "surge" after all is often shorthand for both the addition of U.S. troops as well as the adoption of a counterinsurgency strategy.
Of course, the official "surge" was ordered by President Bush in January 2007--four months after the Awakening began. Some are pointing to this statement as proof that McCain gets "his facts all wrong", as Matthew Yglesias writes.
But Yglesias's colleague Marc Ambinder writes that a charitable reading of McCain's statement is "that the surge helped the Anbar Awakening to succeed because the shieks could actually be protected."
Indeed, the surge did not midwife the Anbar Awakening--it kept the Awakening from being strangled in the crib. Here's how the Washington Post characterized a November 2006 Marine intelligence report on Anbar:
So two months after the Awakening began, Anbar looked hopeless. Yet Yglesias contends that the surge was not largely responsible for the progress in that province:
But Fallujah--in Anbar--is about 30 miles west of Baghdad. That's the distance between Washington D.C. and Dulles airport. Might not U.S. forces killing terrorists in Baghdad have reduced the level of violence in Fallujah as well as 30 miles farther west in Ramadi?
Furthermore, two additional Marine battalions were sent to Anbar, and it wasn't until they were deployed and the counterinsurgency implemented that the Anbar Awakening flourished.
The Awakening, Kagan wrote,