Frederick Kagan has a fascinating comparison of the specific Iraq policy plans McCain and Obama advanced before the Surge. McCain actually envisioned a surge-like event, and described all the positive benefits that would flow from it — and his predictions proved to be completely accurate. Obama, of course, demanded retreat and defeat. Given the success of the plan McCain envisioned, it is not unreasonable to assume that Obama’s opposite plan might have had a very opposite outcome. I love Kagan’s conclusion:
For any voter trying to choose between the two candidates for commander in chief, there is no better test than this: When American strategy in a critical theater was up for grabs, John McCain proposed a highly unpopular and risky path, which he accurately predicted could lead to success. Barack Obama proposed a popular and politically safe route that would have led to an unnecessary and debilitating American defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.
The two men brought different backgrounds to the test, of course. In January 2007, McCain had been a senator for 20 years and had served in the military for 23 years. Obama had been a senator for 2 years and before that was a state legislator, lawyer, and community organizer. But neither presidential candidates nor the commander in chief gets to choose the tests that history brings. Once in office, the one elected must perform.