Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The WaPo Takes Note Of The Success In Iraq

Heavens to Betsy, notify the rest of the media, which is probably yawning at this WaPo editorial today. Funny that it is on the editorial page and not the front page, but what can we expect from a major media outlet that continued to run with the "all-is-lost" meme even as the surge began to show significant improvements:

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. 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."

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. It is -- of course -- too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments -- and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the "this-war-is-lost" caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Gen. David H. Petraeus signaled one adjustment in recent testimony to Congress, saying that he would probably recommend troop reductions in the fall going beyond the ongoing pullback of the five "surge" brigades deployed last year. 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.

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.

Ace @ AoSHQ observes that yesterday Andrew Sullivan basically stated that now was the time for an expeditious withdrawal. Quote: "The trap Obama must not be caught in is one of excessive pessimism. Conditions now favor expeditious withdrawal more than they did only a few months ago." All right, so we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Please. Did Mr. Sullivan not read the portion discussing General Petraeus' call for a draw-down of troops, but not one that could jeopardize the successes we have accomplished? Apparently he did.

The bigger story surrounding this op-ed is the fact that a media outlet is finally admitting that we have turned a corner: Successes have been made in Baghdad, Sadr City, Anbar, Diyala, and gains are being made in Mosul. All of those were serious hot-spots for terrorist and insurgent activity. Aside from Mosul, the other areas are secured and under Iraqi control.

Does this mean it is time to come home? Hardly. The Iraqi army still needs some mild back-up from US forces. We are not going to leave Iraq completely, and the Iraqis do not want us to leave yet. A draw-down of troops cannot go below a certain level; the Iraqis cannot be left vulnerable. The more important aspect are the upcoming elections this year for the Iraqis. It is a crucial election that will determine the course they take over the next couple of years. Will incoming ministers and officials be more prone and open to relations with its neighbors, such as Iran or Syria, or will they continue to be cautious in dealing with them? Time will tell, but the current al-Maliki administration knows that Iran has been interfering in their problems.

May was the least dangerous month for US troops in Iraq since the surge began. In the run-up to the elections we predict an uptick in attacks in an effort to demoralize both US and Iraqi forces. That effort will also translate over here in America as we approach our own election. If we weather those attacks sufficiently, then Senator Obama's chances of a win in November decrease. He has been the eternal pessimist while this war has gone on. If AQI, which is on the ropes according to Ambassador Crocker, continues to falter, and is unable to mount a sufficient Tet-like offensive, voters will trust the wrap-up of Iraq to Senator McCain. Indeed, if Senator Obama wants even the most remote chance of staving off a landslide in November, he had better locate a plan for success in Iraq. This story will continue to gain legs in the media despite their apparent unwillingness to acknowledge good news when it arrives on their doorstep.



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