John McCain Owns Bush's Surge...and Its Consequences

John McCain is claiming personal ownership of the surge, boasting of his advocacy as the central element of his national security credentials. But the wisdom of this strategy depends on the media and the voters having an improbably narrow view of the surge's consequences.

Doubts about the wisdom of McCain's political calculation do not require the standard argument that the surge failed to achieve its political objectives, nor the fact there are several plausible, alternative reasons for whatever reported reductions in violence may have occurred. One can even discount as temporary the dreadful news that violence appears to have increased in recent weeks, with dozens more killed yesterday, and hope that killings of civilians will decline rather than increase.

The strategic choice whether to increase troops or begin withdrawing them always required the Administration to consider what would happen not only in Iraq but everywhere else. And it's clear that since the President's -- now McCain's -- policy choice to surge more troops into Iraq, conditions everywhere else have substantially worsened, with increasingly alarming consequences for US security interests.

Recently the negative consequences of the surge decision have been in full view. The Bush Administration sent Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates and senior military officials to Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan trying to repair the damage caused by the Administration's neglect of Afghanistan, its neglect of Pakistani democracy and its over reliance on a despised military dictator to cover Afghanistan's southern flank. At the same time, National Security Director McConnell was warning Congress, in effect, that the Afghanistan/Pakistan region has now become the major threat to American security.

Who can doubt these entirely predictable consequences are linked to the preoccupation with Iraq? And whom should we hold responsible for tying up our strategic reserves to that preoccupation? Admiral Mullen and General Casey have been warning the Administration for months that the size of our occupation was unsustainable, weakening the US military and eliminating the nation's strategic flexibility to deal with any other contingency.

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