Sunday, June 01, 2008


The Washington Post Wakes Up to History

In a stunningly upbeat article on the success of the 'surge' change in tactics in Iraq, titled The Iraqi Upturn, the liberal icon Washington Post puts the ball squarely back in Senator Obama's court. Witness:

THERE'S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks -- which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war.

Odd? ODD? The bad news from Iraq is over-covered, the success in Iraq is not covered at all. This is the way it's been since about June, 2003. It's not odd at all. Wait, there's more.

While Washington's attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have "never been closer to defeat than they are now."

All true.
Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained "special groups" that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans.

Careful, the next thing you'll be saying is that we're winning in Iraq. That would contradict all of the Democrat leadership over the last several months, including Barack Obama.

Gen. Petraeus pointed out that attacks in Iraq hit a four-year low in mid-May and that Iraqi forces were finally taking the lead in combat and on multiple fronts at once -- something that was inconceivable a year ago. As a result the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki now has "unparalleled" public support, as Gen.Petraeus put it, and U.S. casualties are dropping sharply. Eighteen American soldiers died in May, the lowest total of the war and an 86 percent drop from the 126 who died in May 2007.

Lovely to hear, and oh yeah, they get to Obama.

If the positive trends continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq's 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

Doomed to defeat? That'll be the day, with the quality of most of our armed forces. And yes, an Obama plan for continuing our success in Iraq would be quite refreshing. I'm not actually holding my breath in anticipation.

On the contrarian front, see what those stuck in the Democratic alternative reality still think, like theater critic Frank Rich, peter principled up to political opinion pieces at the sinking Grey Lady. His succinct take on the what he sees of the "national tragedy," the current situation in Iraq:

Mr. McCain and his party are in denial about this. “Elections are about the future” is their mantra. On “Hardball” in April, Mr. McCain pooh-poohed debate about “whether we should have invaded or not” as merely “a good academic argument.” We should focus on the “victory” he magically foresees instead.

But the large American majority that judges the war a mistake remains constant (more than 60 percent). For all the talk of the surge’s “success,” the number of Americans who think the country is making progress in Iraq is down nine percentage points since February (to 37 percent) in the latest Pew survey. The number favoring a “quick withdrawal” is up by seven percentage points (to 56 percent).

It’s extremely telling that when Gen. David Petraeus gave his latest progress report before the Senate 10 days ago, his testimony aroused so little coverage and public interest that few even noticed his admission that those much-hyped October provincial elections in Iraq would probably not happen before November (after our Election Day, wanna bet?). Contrast the minimal attention General Petraeus received for his current news from Iraq with the rapt attention Mr. McClellan is receiving for his rehash of the war’s genesis circa 2002-3, and you can see what has traction this election year.

Notice that Rich uses popular opinion rather than actual metrics of success to continue his defeatists ideas, and he uses the press' self imposed embargo on good news from Iraq (and the near complete lack of coverage of General Petraeus's latest report) as proof that the present just doesn't matter, that the failure to find WMD 5 years ago is much more important than current success and a relatively secure, Iraqi republic. Not that compelling an argument in my book. It seems more like clinging to the straws of the tiny bit of bad news from Iraq in the cascading torrent of good news.


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