Fred Kagan at the Weekly Standard contrasts each candidate’s approach to the war: Voting for Commander in Chief
There can only be one.
“By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis and their partners the best possible chances to succeed.”
Given this analysis, Obama’s legislation forbade the surge and ordered most U.S. troops out of Iraq by the spring of 2008.
So what happened? President Bush ordered the surge. He committed an additional five Army brigades and two Marine battalions to Iraq with the mission of protecting the Iraqi population. In accomplishing this, U.S. forces partnered with Iraqi troops precisely as McCain had suggested, helping them “hold” areas that they had jointly “cleared.” Meanwhile, American troops established bonds with local leaders, as McCain had said they would, which led to the expansion of the “Anbar Awakening” movement throughout central Iraq. And U.S. troops developed numerous economic and infrastructure projects that provided jobs.
Sectarian violence stopped almost completely. Al Qaeda in Iraq was dealt what CIA director Michael Hayden now assesses as “a near strategic defeat.” This allowed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to commit Iraqi Security Forces directly against the last remaining illegal militias in Iraq, clearing them out of Basra and Sadr City–weaning “the populace off their reliance on militias for safety,” as McCain had put it. American casualties initially rose, as McCain had warned they would, but then fell dramatically: Last month was the lowest-casualty month of the entire war.
Once violence was under control, the Iraqis began to make serious political progress, as McCain had predicted. They passed almost all of the “benchmark” legislation that Obama’s bill would have required.