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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Polls numbers on the rise over Iraq

Glenn Reynolds linked to it. So did K-Lo. For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for the party invested in a US defeat in Iraq:

Even some critics of President Bush's Iraq war policies are conceding there is evidence of recent improvements from a military standpoint. But Bush supporters and critics alike agree that these have not been matched by any noticeable progress on the political front.

Despite U.S. pressure, Iraq's parliament went on vacation for a month after failing to pass either legislation to share the nation's oil wealth or to reconcile differences among the factions. And nearly all Sunni representatives in the government have quit, undermining the legitimacy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite.

Still, there have been signs of changes in attitudes, some on the ground in Iraq, some in the United States:

— Two critics of Bush's recent handling of Iraq, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institution, penned an op-ed opinion piece in The New York Times suggesting after a visit that "we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms." They recommended Congress sustain the current troop buildup "at least into 2008."

— Leading anti-war Democrat Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania predicted that U.S. commanders will begin drawing down troop levels early next year and that Congress can be more flexible in setting a fixed deadline for ending the U.S. occupation.

— Polls suggest that Bush has had some degree of success in linking Islamic militants in Iraq with the al-Qaida terrorist movement.

"The administration is aggressively engaged in shifting (public) attitudes. And our side has been less aggressive than it needs to be," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "The administration has been making inroads on their Iraqi argument, particularly linking it to terrorism."

After sliding to just 28 percent in June, within range of an all-time low, Bush's job approval rating on handling Iraq rose slightly to 31 percent in July, according to AP-Ipsos polling. And a recent CBS/NYT poll showed an increase in the percentage of Americans who think the U.S. did the right thing in going to war with Iraq, up to 42 percent from 35 percent in May.

"I don't claim our recommendation to keep surging into 2008 is a no-brainer. That can be debated. But I think people's opinions need to catch up with the battlefield facts," O'Hanlon said in an interview.

The op-ed piece he wrote with Pollack has been widely circulated by war supporters but denounced by many war critics. "As long as people start to get a sense that what's happening on the battlefield is different and better than what it was, then I feel like we've made our contribution," said O'Hanlon.

O'Hanlon and Pollack supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but they have been sharply critical of the administration's handling of the aftermath.

Like the Iraqi parliament, Congress has recessed for the rest of August, to return in September — when an eagerly awaited progress report on Iraq will be presented by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

What lawmakers hear from their constituents during the next month could do a lot to shape the Iraq debate ahead of receiving that report.

Visiting Iraq, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Wednesday from Baghdad that American-led forces were "making some measurable progress, but it's slow going."

Non one said that the "surge" would be a miracle overnight. Hell, most experts (our amateur selves among them) believe that the "surge" will need to finish through the end of this year, and early next year, before we can begin any sort of a draw down of troops. If the Iraqi Parliament returns in September, and miraculously make the necessary political corrections, that does not make a stable country. We will still be needed in Iraq to deal with the remnants of the insurgency/AQ.

The fact that there is a jump in the polls regarding Iraq is telling. It paints two distinct stories. It shows that America is seeing the early success, which translates to a rise int he numbers supporting the mission in Iraq, but it also is conveyed int he president's numbers. There is more faith in him and the strategy he is employing now. This is something that was desperately needed. Morale is up for the troops, but if they are continually shown polling data on the news showing a lack of faith in their mission, their morale will suffer. A "why bother?" attitude is the worst thing for a soldier in wartime to have. If they don't believe in the mission, then that extra effort needed to make the strategy work will be absent.

Publius II


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