So the new thing in the McCain campaign is to retort Barack Obama's claims of superior judgment about the disaster of starting the Iraq War with claims of superior judgment about the success story the "surge" turned out to be. And this story of campaign talking points gets passed around in the surficially non-partisan election-year coverage from the media without any analysis. What gets lost in this traditional election year back-and-forth is that the fiction about the surge's success remains unchallenged.
It's like everyone has forgotten why we had this surge of troops in the first place. We were tired of getting our asses kicked, so congress set up the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group to come up with some things we could do to stop the hurtin'. When their report came out, Bush ignored most of the recommendations and keyed in on a footnote developed by some of the more hawkish members which suggested that the U.S. increase the number of soldiers in Baghdad by lengthening tours and whatnot. Strategy was developed to give purpose to these extra brigades, and the White House came up with the overarching goals, including reducing the violence enough to allow the Iraqis to come up with and enforce their own laws, training Iraqi security and law enforcement more quickly, and in general guiding Iraqis towards stable democracy. Good points certainly, but it required Iraqi leaders to take up the initiative. This is why the strategy was flawed.
The surge started in January of 2007 and would last through this month, July 2008. The new Democrat-controlled Congress gritted its teeth and passed many non-binding resolutions in full awareness of their lack of constitutional oversight into the executive branch's war powers. But they did manage to pass what would turn out to be completely irrelevant benchmark legislation that required the military to evaluate itself. They did evaluate themselves, dishonestly but still poorly, and the surge bumbled along. After the reporting frenzy of September 2007, the media started not caring about Iraq anymore, choosing instead to start Election 2008 coverage.
It wasn't until about November 2007 that violent attacks finally started to decline, which mostly went unnoticed at first. Eventually the media caught on to the fact that merely dozens of Americans instead of hundreds of Americans were being killed every month and reported it unequivocably as a success story, even though about a thousand Iraqi civilians still die every month from sectarian gunfire and suicide bombers. But since the whole stated purpose of the Surge was dependant on the Iraqis developing a functioning civil society, can we really call it a success? Have the Iraqis properly dealt with their problem of training militia members who turn around and become loyal to sectarian leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr? Are the national police loyal to the state? Are the Iraq Security Forces able to take our place yet? Do the people recognize the Iraqi parliament as the creator of laws? Are there oil-revenue sharing laws yet (I actually don't know about this one)? If these benchmarks of the surge aren't met, how can we call the surge a success? Someone needs to call John McCain's bluff.