No sooner had I zapped out my preceding post, did I retrieve this cogent analysis by former CIA analyst Paul Pillar for the National Interest. Without naming Sen. McCain directly, Pillar makes the point that touting the Surge as some kind of decisive victory for the US in Iraq takes a very simplistic approach about the reasons why violence began to diminish then, and about the Surge's effects.
The quickness in trying to put the Iraq War behind us has . . . unhelpfully frozen in amber some perceptions about the war, despite continuing events that should call those perceptions into question. Foremost among these perceptions is one that has become received wisdom: that the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 was a big success. Violence in Iraq did drop markedly, of course, from the worst sectarian strife in 2006 and 2007. But the troop surge was only one of several changes in Iraq's political and military landscape that were occurring at the same time and contributed to the drop in violence. And violence continues at a level that, although it seems favorable compared to the darkest days of the sectarian civil war, is horrible by most other standards. . . .
Most important, the surge never brought about the political reconciliation for which it was supposed to provide space.