Rattling around the Internets yesterday was this report that, in an interview with CBS, John McCain misstated the timeline for the Iraq surge and the Anbar Awakening. The Awakening began before President Bush announced the troop increases but McCainâ€™s statements made it sound as if the surge directly led to the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Now, McCain is denying that he misstated the timeline, insisting that critics misunderstand the meaning of â€œsurge.â€ McCain says the surge included numerous counterinsurgency initiatives, some of which began several months before Bush announced the strategic change in January of 2007. McCain continues to maintain that, without the surge/counterinsurgency efforts, the sheiks who revolted in Anbar could not have succeeded because we could not have protected them.
While McCain can validly argue that our increased troop levels and improved counterinsurgency efforts helped insure the success of the Anbar Awakening and similar Iraqi-led revolts against al-Qaida, he knows full-well that the common definition of the surge is the increase in troop levels President Bush initiated in January 2007. The Anbar Awakening was underway well before then.
I think McCain got caught simplifying history for the sake of a clean argument. Itâ€™s not that he doesnâ€™t understand the order of events itâ€™s just that the order of events are inconvenient to his argument. Much like the success of the surge is inconvenient to Barack Obamaâ€™s arguments. Both men are struggling to present the facts as they stand and not as they wish they stood. We will need some serious media and citizenry vigilance as we go forward in this campaign to make sure both candidates are painting an accurate portrait of Iraq and our successes and failures there.
McCain deserves to get smacked for simplifying events and appearing ignorant of the historical timeline. But his greater point is not wrong. The surge helped insure that the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida succeeded. Will Obama ever admit the same?