Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Daily Gaffe: Anbar Awakening

Is it possible that this neglected blog will become nothing more than an erratic collection of posts on the gaffes of John McCain? I wouldn't rule it out, especially not before the Oregon Brewers Fest ends. Anyway, the current run bodes badly doesn't it? Nevertheless...

Katie Couric is doing interviews with both presidential candidates. In the McCain installment, she asked this question:
Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?
McCain's response is typically touchy (he chafes when questioned on subjects over which he claims mastery), but includes another basic factual error.
I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane (phonetic) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.
But McCain (in another irony) is the one with the bad history:
The surge wasn't even announced until a few months after the Anbar Awakening. Via Spencer Ackerman, here is Colonel MacFarland explaining the Anbar Awakening to Pam Hess of UPI, on September 29 2006. That would be almost four months before the President even announced the surge. Petraeus wasn't even in Iraq yet.
Ilan Goldenberg, tracking down the quotes at Democracy Arsenal, adds another. This is from a story in Foreign Affairs by a scholar of the Iraq war, Colin H. Kahl:
The Awakening began in Anbar Province more than a year before the surge and took off in the summer and fall of 2006 in Ramadi and elsewhere, long before extra U.S. forces started flowing into Iraq in February and March of 2007. Throughout the war, enemy-of-my-enemy logic has driven Sunni decision-making. The Sunnis have seen three "occupiers" as threats: the United States, the Shiites (and their presumed Iranian patrons), and the foreigners and extremists in AQI. Crucial to the Awakening was the reordering of these threats.
It should be noted that I was unclear about the timing of the Anbar Awakening and might well have made this gaffe myself. But then again, I'm neither running for President nor a self-professed expert on military strategies. If this is McCain in his area of expertise, how will he do in a debate where he'll be expected to discuss policy in subjects in which he can't express even passing interest?

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