Writing in the Washington Post, the Delaware Senator says that McCain’s progress report is bunk. Biden argues against “stick[ing] with a failing strategy,” even though we have altered the strategy, and now have a new commander–General Petraeus–who by all accounts is the most competent we’ve ever had. Also, Biden doesn’t acknowledge that the surge isn’t in full effect. The last I heard, the full contingent of new troops won’t be in place until June, and once in place, it will take at least until the end of the year to intelligently discuss whether or not the new strategy was effective. Biden counters McCain’s examples of successes in Iraq by arguing that “for every welcome development, there is an equally or even more unwelcome development that gives lie to the claim that we are making progress” and gives examples. But McCain wasn’t arguing that there isn’t bad news, just flashes of good news coming much sooner than thought possible, when the surge isn’t even in full effect. Therefore, we should at least give the surge a chance to be fully implemented before calling it a failure and surrendering.
So in other words, in the areas where the surge is occurring, we’re seeing improvement, but where it isn’t happening, things are getting worse. However, once we have the full force in place, enough to surge in more areas, we may see improvement across the board. Or, to continue Biden’s analogy, pop the water balloon when it bulges somewhere else.
Don’t get me wrong, I was and am skeptical that the surge will be effective, and I think any supporter of the war who is being intellectually honest at this point has to be skeptical. I question whether the 20,000+ troops will be enough and I fear that any military success will be undermined by the lack of a political solution. With that said, we have an improved strategy, and a great team in place, so we should give it a chance to work before branding it a failure.
UPDATE: Frederick Kagan responds.