In what can only be regarded as a stunning op-ed in, of all places, the New York Times, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution make the case that the US is winning in Iraq. Both of these men have been harshly critical of the war effort to date, so this is a shocker.
VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were 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.
O'Hanlon and Pollack detail vastly improved troop morale – attributable directly to the command of General Petraeus, greatly improved relations with everyday Iraqis, better focus on security and civilian needs and much, much more. Coming from these two critics and with the Brookings stamp on it, this is very significant. An illustration of how much better it is in Iraq:
The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.
In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.
Please read the whole thing, it is that important.
UPDATE: That didn't take long. Apparently the "big tent" hasn't room for any dissent:
I have a new litmus test for the Dem Presidential candidates – they must promise not to have Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollock in their administration.