Commentary Magazine


The Right Man, The Right Post

In recent days we’ve seen two significant Iraq-related pieces in the Washington Post. The first is a front-page story today by Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq Reported Crippled.” The second is a Post editorial from Sunday, “Better Numbers: The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute.”

The Ricks-DeYoung article begins this way:

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months . . .

The Post editorial concludes this way:

[I]t’s looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus’s credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq’s bloodshed were—to put it simply—wrong.

These two pieces underscore the military progress we’ve seen this year in Iraq since General David Petraeus took command and began implementing what is clearly, and at this point almost inarguably, the right strategy in Iraq. And it makes one wonder what complicated set of factors was driving the recent remarks of retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commanding general Iraq in 2003-2004, when he said about Iraq that the United States is “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

That may have been true a year ago, but it is no longer the case. Iraq remains a traumatized society, and progress that has been made can be lost. Victory is hardly assured, and much more needs to be done on the political side of things. Yet all we can do is judge where we are right now—and if, in January, we had been told this is where we’d be in October, any of us would have taken it. In a heartbeat.

We now have a decent shot at a decent outcome in Iraq, something few thought was possible ten months ago. It is a reminder that having the right man in the right post—in this instance, having David Howell Petraeus as the commanding general in Iraq—can make a world of difference. See Lincoln and the Civil War for more.