The dramatic success of the surge in Iraq is not a central issue in the current presidential race. It did, however, set its shape-and may help determine its outcome in an unexpected way.
John McCain won the nomination of his party, in large part, as a vindicated prophet. After visiting Iraq in the summer of 2003, he argued on "Meet the Press" that "the men and women in the military are doing a superb job. . . . The problem is that they don't have enough resources. There's not enough of them, and we are in a very serious situation, in my view, a race against time." McCain added, "Time is not on our side. People in 125-degree heat with no electricity and no fuel are going to become angry in a big hurry. The sophistication of the attacks on U.S. and allied troops have increased. And what we do in the next several months will determine whether we're in a very difficult situation or not."
McCain staked his presidential prospects on a major change in Iraq policy: more troops implementing the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy (an approach eventually, though too slowly, adopted by the Bush administration). In his biting new Commentary magazine essay, "Liberals and the Surge," Peter Wehner recounts the elite reaction to this shift. It was variously dismissed as "genuinely bizarre," a "fantasy-based escalation," a "pipe dream" and "completely detached from reality" because the United States had "already lost."