The Conversation

Chicago Tribune: Why Couldn't Hagel Admit the Surge Worked?

If you caught some of Hagel's performance last week you know it was awful. The Chicago Tribune says it was so awful that Hagel should be rejected. But one paragraph in their editorial caught my attention:

Sen. John McCain grilled Hagel about his opposition to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq ordered by President George W. Bush. Hagel refused to say whether he had been right or wrong. He said he'd await the "judgment of history." If he had spoken with candor, he would have acknowledged that the surge helped win that war and hasten the safe departure of U.S. troops. Why the reluctance to say so?

The reason Hagel couldn't answer the question is because President Obama has never admitted the surge worked. Obama, Biden and Hagel were partners claiming back in early 2007 that the surge would be a failure and a disaster. In March of 2008 Hagel was still claiming he was right to oppose the surge. Months later in September 2008, Obama himself was discounting the success of the surge as purely a matter of lowering violence (as if that's not a necessary prelude to everything else):

as successful as our troops have been in lowering the violence in Iraq, and they have performed brilliantly. But the truth of the matter is we still don’t have an oil agreement. We still don’t have provincial elections. The commanders on the ground themselves acknowledge that the political progress that’s needed has not been made. So we all welcome the reduction in violence, but the notion that somehow this was the only way for us to solve the problem, and that the problem has been solved, I completely disagree with.

Why couldn't Hagel admit the surge worked? Because President Obama has never done so and because doing so now would be a reminder of how wrong both he and Obama were on the most important foreign policy issue of the day circa 2007.


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