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Stemming the Tide

In today’s Guardian, we read:

The number of foreign jihadists entering Iraq has fallen by nearly half in recent months as a result of tougher action by the country’s neighbors and the rejection of the “al Qaeda brand” by ordinary Iraqis, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said yesterday. General David Petraeus told the Guardian in an interview that attacks in Iraq had fallen to levels not seen since early 2005, and that “ethno-sectarian violence” which had “surged off the charts” following the bombing of the Samara mosque in February 2006 had now “fallen dramatically.” “There is still a lot of hard work to be done,” Petraeus added by way of caution. Despite the damage inflicted on al Qaeda in Iraq, he said the group remained “a dangerous enemy.”

The sharp drop in foreign jihadists entering Iraq is one more data point to add to the progress we’ve seen in 2007, including a dramatic decrease in American combat casualties, Iraqi civilian casualties, suicide bombings, and roadside bombings; the increase in local population support for our efforts; the tremendous body blows al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has absorbed; the “Anbar Awakening” and the widespread rejection of bin Ladenism we are seeing among Sunni Iraqis; Shia in Baghdad turning against Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army; the continuation of “bottom up” reconciliation efforts and the distribution of oil revenues (even absent laws mandating it); and early signs that the huge refugee flow out of Iraq has begun to reverse itself.

In light of this, it’s important to underscore two things. The first is that General Petraeus is surely right to say that there is still a lot of hard work to do in Iraq. Progress that’s been made can be stalled or even reversed. There are ebbs and flows to war—and in Iraq we have seen things change dramatically for the worse and change dramatically for the better. Those of us who have supported the surge, then, need to heed his counsel when he says, as he did to the New York Times

Nobody says anything about turning corners, seeing lights at the ends of tunnels, any of those phrases. And I think when you’ve been doing this as long as some of us have, you just keep your head down and keep moving.

Iraq remains a fragile, traumatized, and in many respects a broken country. It is nowhere near where it needs to be. And the central government still needs to do more, much more, to advance political reconciliation. But across the board, repairs are being made. We should therefore take sober satisfaction for what General Petraeus, the American military, and the people of Iraq have achieved this year and continue building on it. We have, at long last, a formula for long-term success.

At the same time, leaders of the Democratic Party continue to act in a deeply irresponsible and politically reckless way. Earlier this week, for example, we read this on the Politico blog:

Democrats are increasingly bailing on their previously held view that the troop surge in Iraq has been a “failure,” but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t ready to jump on the bandwagon with other Democrats who say the surge has worked. The Senate re-opened for business on Monday after a two-week Thanksgiving break, during which key Democrats traveled to Iraq and declared that the surge is working, at least from a security and military perspective. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), one the top war critics, stunned fellow Democrats late last week with his statement that “the surge is working,” even though he added that political reconciliation has been lagging. Murtha’s view was backed by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who also said the surge worked after he returned from Iraq. But Reid, in a Monday press conference, ceded no ground. “The surge hasn’t accomplished its goals,” Reid said. ” . . . We are involved, still, in an intractable civil war.”

So despite the extraordinary progress we’ve seen this year in Iraq, Majority Leader Reid still wants to deny it, in order to force a change in strategy that would have catastrophic consequences. More and more people, even in his own party, see how destructive, and self-destructive, this would be.

Soon Harry Reid may be standing alone.



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