A glim­mer of hope in Iraq, and at home

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The cracks in Congress’ emerg­ing Iraq with­drawal con­sen­sus are bound to show if peo­ple take the spate of re­cent pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments on the ground in Iraq into se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. There is sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence that the surge is work­ing, that ter­ror­ist “whack-a-mole” is not the in­evitable state of af­fairs in Iraq, and hence that there is hope yet for a self-sus­tain­ing Iraq — as long as U.S. law­mak­ers do not cut off the war ef­fort.

The most strik­ing homefront bell­wether last week came, of all places, from the New York Times Op-Ed page. The voices were the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion’s Michael O’Han­lon and Ken­neth Pol­lack, fresh from eight days in Iraq, and the mes­sage couldn’t be clearer. “Congress should plan on sus­tain­ing the war ef­fort at least into 2008,” say Messrs. O’Han­lon and Pol­lack, no Bush in­sid­ers. Both have been quite crit­i­cal of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the war, which they call “mis­er­able.” Both now see progress af­ter be­ing “sur­prised by the gains we saw and the po­ten­tial to pro­duce not nec­es­sar­ily ‘vic­tory’ but a sus­tain­able sta­bil­ity that both we and the Iraqis could live with.” We’ll see whether the as­sess­ment of two hon­est lib­er­als which runs counter to the with­drawal drum­beat can man­age to turn any an­ti­war heads.

An­bar prov­ince is nearly com­pletely trans­formed from an in­fa­mous ter­ror­ist strong­hold to Iraq’s lead­ing safe zone be­sides the Kur­dish north. Ra­madi has un­der­done a sim- ilarly re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion; the au­thors “strolled down its streets with­out body ar­mor,” which would stun those who vis­ited in 2006. Bagh­dad’s Ghaz­a­liya neigh­bor­hood is re­cov­er­ing. Tal Afar and Mo­sul, two sites of ma­jor bat­tles and ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity, are now very much in the hands of Iraqi forces with Amer­i­can troop lev­els now re­duced to the hun­dreds. The morale of U.S. troops is high, as is con­fi­dence in Gen. David Pe­traeus.

“Here is the most im­por­tant thing Amer­i­cans need to un­der­stand: We are fi­nally get­ting some­where in Iraq, at least in mil­i­tary terms,” write Messrs. O’Han­lon and Pol­lack.

We would also men­tion Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist David Ig­natius’ con­tention that a safe with­drawal from Iraq “will be im­pos­si­ble if the nec­es­sary bar­gain­ing takes place against a back­drop of con­tin­ual con­gres­sional de­mands for a faster with­drawal.” In sum, “[I]t mat­ters pow­er­fully how we dis­en­gage.”

As a mo­ment in the pol­i­tics of this Iraq de­bate, it would be be­yond tragic if Congress were to cut off the war ef­fort at the very mo­ment that sig­nif­i­cant progress had fi­nally got­ten un­der­way. We are at a mo­ment when fresh­man Rep. Nancy Boyda, Kansas Demo­crat, feels jus­ti­fied walk­ing out on re­tired Army Gen. Jack Keane at a hear­ing be­cause she can­not stom­ach the gen­eral’s pos­i­tive as­sess­ment of de­vel­op­ments in Iraq. Let us hope we will soon ar­rive at a mo­ment when Mrs. Boyda can be re­garded as histri­onic and no more.

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