by hilzoy

John McCain tried to explain his claim that the surge, which was announced in January 2007, began the Anbar Awakening, which began in the summer of 2006. Here's video:

Here's my transcription of the relevant part (it begins at about 2:40):

"McCain: First of all, a surge is really a counterinsurgency strategy, and it's made up of a number of components. And this counterinsurgency was initiated to some degree by Colonel McFarland in Anbar province relatively on his own. When I visited with him in December of 2006, he had already initiated that strategy in Ramadi by going in and clearing and holding in certain places. That is a counterinsurgency. And he told me at that time that he believed that that strategy, which is, quote, the surge, part of the surge, would be successful. So then, of course, it was very clear that we needed additional troops in order to carry out this counterinsurgency.

Prior to that, they had been going into places, killing people or not killing people, and then withdrawing. And the new counterinsurgency -- surge -- entailed clearing and holding, which Colonel McFarland had already started doing. And then of course later on there were additional troops, and General Petraeus has said that the surge would not have worked and the Anbar Awakening would not have taken place successfully if they hadn't had an increase in the number of troops. So I'm not sure, frankly, that people really understand that a surge is part of a counterinsurgency strategy, which means going in, clearing, holding, building a better life, providing services to the people, and then clearly a part of that, an important part of it, was additional troops to help ensure the safety of the sheikhs, to regain control of Ramadi, which was a very bloody fight, and then the surge continued to succeed, and that counterinsurgency.

Q: So when you say 'surge', then you're not referring just to the one that President Bush initiated; you're saying it goes back several months before that?

Yes, and again, because of my visits to Iraq, I was briefed by Colonel McFarland in December of 2006 where he outlined what was succeeding there in this counterinsurgency strategy which we all know of now as the surge."

So, if I understand this: the surge is part of a counterinsurgency strategy. This strategy has a number of components. Since the surge is part of the counterinsurgency strategy, you'd think it might be one of these components, but no: while the additional troops were a mere part of the strategy, the surge is the counterinsurgency strategy, in its entirety. This "counterinsurgency strategy which we all know of now as the surge" obviously did not begin when the additional troops arrived; it had been going on for months before President Bush announced it.

McCain is arguing as follows: find some X, of which what we normally think of as the surge is a part. Define all of X as "the surge". Argue that since X is responsible for some development Y, a development which preceded what we normally think of as the surge, "the surge", understood to mean X, is responsible for Y. This is a delightful argument, and it yields all kinds of fun results. For instance:

The surge is part of American history, and American history has a number of components. And this American history was initiated in some sense by Captain John Smith, and when I visited with him in 1607, he had already initiated that history at Jamestown, by going in and clearing and holding in certain places. That is American history. And he told me at that time that he believed that that history, which is, quote, the surge, part of the surge, would be successful. [Ed. note: Did you catch that crucial move?] So then, of course, it was very clear that we needed additional troops in order to continue our history. And so I'm not sure, frankly, that people really understand that a surge is part of American history [Ed. note: there it is again!], which means the settlement at Jamestown, declaring independence, winning the Civil War, emancipating the slaves, the New Deal, deciding to invade Iraq, and then clearly a part of that, an important part of it, was additional troops to help ensure the safety of the sheikhs, to regain control of Ramadi, which was a very bloody fight, and then the surge continued to succeed, and that American history.

Q: So when you say 'surge', then you're not referring just to the one that President Bush initiated; you're saying it goes back several centuries before that?

Yes, and again, because of my visits to Virginia, I was briefed by Captain John Smith shortly after he established the settlement at Jamestown where he outlined what was happening there in American history which we all know of now as the surge.

I could go on and show that the surge is responsible for the invention of the calculus, the birth of Christ, the extinction of the dodo, and the hula hoop craze. After all, you can prove virtually anything once you adopt the Humpty Dumpty principle:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

(Crossposted at Obsidian Wings.)

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