Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain Tries Everything, Except Admitting He Knows Nothing About Iraq

Devastatingly embarrassed, and so breathtakingly ignorant about the one subject he has to run on, John McCain is desperate. He has had the worst month in his entire political career. He is faltering, stepping on his own denials, and we are very near the moment where hard-core Republicans are about to throw up their hands and abandon him, crying, "wait til 2012."

The media just doesn't get it--McCain is not a politician who knows specifics or details. He is emotionally driven, not logically driven. He has never taken the time to sit down and absorb the knowledge necessary to make logical decisions about his Iraq policy. He has been engaged, furiously, in the rhetoric and the language of supporting President Bush so that he can win the nomination of the Republican Party. He doesn't care about Sunni vs Shia or chronologies or events because he has never paid attention to the details. He has internalized the rhetoric and the put-down and the terminology without actually knowing what the fuck he's talking about. In short, his staff tells him what to say because they know he doesn't care about the details.

John McCain defended comments he made in an interview on Tuesday when he incorrectly argued that the surge in Iraq gave way to the so-called “Anbar Awakening” - when Sunni leaders joined forces with U.S. troops to fight Al Qaeda in the fall of 2006.

The Arizona senator told reporters Wednesday afternoon that when he refers to the surge, it encompasses not just the January 2007 increase in troop levels but also the counter-insurgency that started in Iraq’s Al Anbar province months prior.

“A surge is really a counter-insurgency strategy, and it’s made up of a number of components,” McCain said. “This counter-insurgency was initiated to some degree by Colonel McFarland in Anbar province, relatively on his own.”
Were that the case, then the 1967 surge of US troops into Vietnam would have been a rousing success, right? How come the wingnuts can't remember their basic Vietnam history? Answer--no one studied COIN after Vietnam, except for a very small handful of military officers, and many of those were overshadowed by the expansion of the US military into a bloated nation-state smashing type of military, not a lean and mean security forces type military. Lessons were not learned after Vietnam. When the US effort appeared to be faltering, the violence and the manpower was escalated by President Johnson while successful efforts like "winning the hearts and minds" of the people were abandoned for B-52 strikes and sprawling firebases.

The Anbar Awakening had nothing to do with the surge but was also responsible for the phony "success" claimed by its proponents like McCain. It should open the eyes of even the blindest partisan that McCain got a major piece of Iraq war history wrong.

A Counterinsurgency strategy comes in many forms, but pouring more men and violence into a conflict isn't one of them. Embracing the Anbar Awakening was one of the few demonstrably successful examples of COIN. Drawing down troops and letting political reconciliation occur in the vacuum of military operations might be considered a COIN strategy, as would eliminating house-to-house doorkicking searches and paying people not to pick up weapons against you. "Surging" troops into a conflict can bring down the violence if enough troops are used for an extended period of time, but that's not COIN--that's enhancing security for a limited time. In Iraq, we moved in a gradual token number of forces in while, more importantly, the Mahdi Army abandoned key attacks against US troops. Had the Mahdi Army not disbanded in many areas, the violence may well have escalated. And let us not forget that the drop in violence had a lot to do with the success of the ethnic cleansing of key areas.

In Iraq, no where near enough troops were added to make a demonstrable surge appear to be anything more than an illusion, and that is the lie McCain keeps spreading every time he speaks. "A noun, a verb, and The Surge" are all he has to run on, and he can't get the details or the specifics right. The other major gaffe of his campaign was an uninformed throwaway comment about how many years to stay in Iraq--"make it a hundred!" His floundering and confusion should be a wake-up call to the media--the man doesn't know what he's talking about.

Too bad they're so enamored with him that they cannot see it. He looks Presidential in their eyes, but he's babbling nonsense.


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