It’s A Beautiful Thing, The Destruction Of Words

The McCain-Surge death-spiral continues. In a supermarket cheese aisle, McCain submits that the surge is really a… counterinsurgency strategy… and so any counterinsurgency strategy is a surge… and the Anbar Awakening was part of a counterinsurgency strategy… so even though it occurred months before the surge, it’s still… a surge! (Via Ilan Goldenberg.) The following exchange with an incredulous reporter is both telling and best read in a Hans Moleman voice.

McCAIN: … Prior to that they had been going into places, killing people or not killing people, and then withdrawing. And the new counterinsurgency ‘surge’ entailed going in, and clearing and holding, which Col. MacFarland had already started doing. And then of course later on, there were additional troops. And Gen. Petraeus has said that the surge would not have worked and the Anbar Awakening would not have taken place — successfully — if they hadn’t had an increase in the number of troops. So, I’m not sure, frankly, that people really understand, that a surge is part of a counterinsurgency strategy, which means going in, clearing, holding, building, building a better life, providing services to the people, and then, clearly, a part of that, an important part of that, was additional troops to ensure the safety of the sheikhs, to regain control of Ramadi, which was a very bloody fight, and then the surge continued to succeed in that counterinsurgency.

REPORTER: So when you say ‘surge’ then, you’re not referring to just the one that President Bush initiated, you’re saying it goes back several months before that?

McCAIN: Yes.

And here’s where McCain has lost the plot. Remember that McCain is making an argument that he can prosecute not only a better war than Barack Obama can, but also a better one than President Bush has. Key to that has been his dual invocation that he supported the new troop surge of 2007 but also was a fierce critic of a mismanaged war during the years prior. Here’s what he says on his campaign website about that:

John McCain has been a leading advocate of the “surge” and the counterinsurgency strategy carried out by General David Petraeus. At the end of 2006, four years of a badly conceived military strategy that concentrated American troops on large bases brought us near to the point of no return.

Oops! By conflating the pre-2007 approach with the post-2007 approach — all to save his ass from simply admitting that he doesn’t understand what the surge and the Awakening actually are — McCain completely messes up his own argument for why he’s better equipped to prosecute the war. Unless the July 2008-era-McCain wants to argue that we really were succeeding in Iraq in 2005! (After all, that’s when Bush unveiled the clear-hold-build-based "National Strategy for Victory.")

This week has been a total disaster for McCain and it’s only Thursday morning.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman