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Not Sure McCain Understands Much At All

A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components.  I’m not sure people understand that `surge’ is part of a counterinsurgency. ~John McCain

Blogging will be light today and tomorrow, but this deserves brief comment.  This has already received a lot of derision, but what I found striking about McCain’s intransigence over his misunderstanding of how the Anbar Awakening happened (before the “surge,” as I have noted before) is that it grossly exaggerates any stubborn inflexibility that he has tried to impute to Obama.  “Why won’t he admit when he’s wrong?” has been McCain’s newest slogan, and it can be turned back around on him very easily. 

What most people understand by the “surge” is the increase in troop levels by five brigades.  If it were referring only to a certain sort of counterinsurgency tactics, such as those used to turn Sunnis in Anbar against the Islamic State in Iraq forces, it would not be temporary but would be ongoing, but the propaganda word “surge” itself implies that it relates to troop levels.  The “surge” as such is now at an end, because these have been returning to their previous, pre-2007 numbers.  This seems to be a case where McCain does not understand a basic aspect of the Iraq war, and does not understand that he doesn’t understand it, but will somehow magically continue to get credit for supporting something that he doesn’t understand.  In his view, based on what he says in this quote, all counterinsurgency efforts make up the “surge,” which is itself part of another, still larger counterinsurgency.  In the broad sense that the war is a counterinsurgency, the second part might be true, but the first part is just nonsense. 

Update: Regarding this questionhere‘s a reminder of what McCain has actually said about Iraq over the years.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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