08/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

By McCain's Measure, the Surge Failed (Just Ask an Iraqi Leader)

Critics may quibble with John McCain's definition of the surge in Iraq -- a little bit this, a little bit that. But to go after McCain on his definition is to miss the larger point: that by McCain's own definition, the surge is no success. Just ask Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister of Iraq, who was seen as the Bush administration's best friend during the last presidential election. This time around, Allawi's assessment of Iraq's condition would seem to support Barack Obama's refusal to waiver from his opposition to the surge.

As I reported for The Media Consortium, Allawi, when asked to comment on the success of the surge, essentially replied: Depends on what you mean by the word "success."

When challenged on his version of the events that comprise the surge, McCain explained, "A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components." He went on to describe those components as both military and political.

Sitting before a House subcommittee earlier this week, Allawi reminded Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (D-Calif.) that the objective of the surge wasn't simply to quell to violence for its own sake, though that is certainly a worthy goal. The point, said Allawi, was to make a safe space for the process of national reconciliation to commence. And that hasn't even begun to happen, he contended.

"Security has not prevailed. And the key element in security is reconciliation and building national institutions for the country," said Allawi. "If this does not happen, then the surge will go in vain." The national security forces, Allawi alleged, were nothing more than sectarian militias in national uniforms. "Now, militarily, the surge has achieved some of its goals," Allawi said. "Politically, I don't think so. The former prime minister appeared earlier this week before Rep. Bill Delahunt's (D-Mass.) foreign affairs subcommittee on international organizations, human rights, and oversight.

Just moments before Allawi's appearance, the subcommittee had concluded a hearing on an extraordinary undertaking by the Bush administration to cut Congress out of agreements it is negotiating with the government of Iraq, based on a "statement of principles" signed by Bush and current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that promises an indefinite commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq. Rumor has it that the administration hopes to conclude its negotiations this month in order to strengthen McCain's hand in the U.S. presidential election.

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