The article proceeds to go into some depth on the various aspects of the surge, as it affects Iraqi people and politics. The mistake in the introductory paragraphs is twofold: the first in attempting to frame this in the context of American politics, the second in naturally assuming that "positive" results of the surge should and will naturally redound to Republicans.
I've subscribed to the Chronicle for many years, and am very familiar with Lochhead's work. I would not consider her body of work particularly brilliant or insightful, but nor is she an idiot or a hack or a corporatist shill. The only thing I can think of is that this is the way the overall narrative generally works, because the media institutionally are conditioned to be diffident, even when they are being needlessly sensationalistic, which is quite the paradox.
Seriously, let's break this down a bit. You could literally take away that initial excerpt, leave the rest of the article, and have a decent analysis of the surge's effects (and lack of). And you could then re-insert that excerpt toward the end, as a conclusion derived from the evidence you presented. It would still be a tremendously flawed conclusion, but narratively its placement would at least make sense. But this setup makes no sense. She's placed the cart before the horse, then set about beating the same dead horse.
Let's cut to the chase, shall we? This administration screwed the pooch royally in invading and occupying Iraq. Even many of its supporters have tacitly acknolwedged various aspects of this over the past five-year rush into -- and slog through -- this manifestly unnecessary war.
Make no mistake about what that means. It means that, even if you're gullible enough to accept this administration's own selective metrics as evidence of the "success" of the surge, that it is "working", that things are "going good" -- even if, like the lazy-ass media, you follow the administration's pathetic lead and fail to define any of those things and just swallow what you're being spoonfed, the fact is that somebody drove the car into the ditch for no goddamned reason. We might be able to get the car towed out of the ditch and drive on, but even if that's possible, why the fuck would you consider letting the same asshole get behind the driver's seat? Why would you give more firecrackers to a kid who's been sticking them up frogs' asses?
That's what Lochhead is saying with her lame "off the ropes" and "back on offense" tropes. It's retarded, and completely unfounded; as she points out in the subsequent paragraph, the percentage of Americans who want the troops home "has not budged". Even the people who contend that it's "worked" admit that it has done so in a different way than they had intended.
So it's a serious question -- why does a respectable journamalist take the trouble to lead off her profile of the surge with an entirely baseless speculation?
The answer to that, whatever it is in the end, has a lot to do with why we are where we are, and how we got there.