At least since August 24, 2003, fewer than six months after American troops began operations in Iraq, John McCain faulted the Bush Administration’s strategy.Â While praising our service members, he identified the problem:Â “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.”
For the next three years, McCain pressed the Administration to develop a new strategy to respond to the increasing violence and to prevent Iraq from sliding into civil war.Â Finally, after his party suffered badly in the 2006 elections, the president took McCain’s advice and implemented the “surge.”Â It succeeded and now the “war is over.”Â We’ve won.Â (Via Instapundit.)
While McCain deserves a lot of credit for pushing for the type of strategy that succeeded while Bush stood pat, the president did show a remarkable resolve when he realized he needed to shift course.Â Charles Krauthammer sums it up:
it is precisely that quality [equanimity] that allowed him to order the surge in Iraq in the face of intense opposition from the political establishment (of both parties), the foreign-policy establishment (led by the feckless Iraq Study Group), the military establishment (as chronicled by Woodward) and public opinion itself. The surge then effected the most dramatic change in the fortunes of an American war since the summer of 1864.
For all the president’s missteps in his second term, at least on national security, particularly Iraq when he finally found his footing, he demonstrated remarkable qualities of leadership.
McCain also demonstrated such qualities. And another, important to a chief executive. He showed foresight. Not just that. He put national security concerns ahead of his political ambition, standing firm on supporting the surge even as advisers warned his stand could hurt him politically.
As Michael Gerson observed on Friday, his leadership on Iraq may not help him in the current campaign. Another irony of this campaign is that the success of the strategy McCain long proposed could well help his opponent who was so spectacularly wrong about the surge.