Commentary Magazine


Friedman Is Paying Attention

Despite the fact his newspaper has ignored coverage of Iraq’s political and military progress and missed the immense changes there in the last year, Thomas Friedman has been paying attention. He writes:

Clearly, the surge has helped to dampen the internal conflict. Clearly, the Iraqi Army is performing better. Clearly, Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki, by cracking down on rogue Shiite groups from his own community, has established himself as more of a national leader. Clearly, the Sunnis have decided to take part in the coming parliamentary elections. Clearly, Kurdistan continues to operate as an island of decency and free markets. Clearly, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been hurt. Clearly, some Arab countries are coming to terms with the changes there by reopening embassies in Baghdad.

He notes that “the reconciliation process inside Iraq — almost five years after our invasion — still has not reached a point where Iraq’s stability is self-sustaining.” See that’s not so hard to admit, is it? Nor is his attempt to be even-handed (Barack Obama’s threat to leave puts pressure on the Iraqis while it would be a mistake for John McCain “to give up his goal of salvaging something in Iraq.”) very different from that offered by other informed observers. I take issue with his notion that McCain wants to be there “indefinitely” — he actually just wants to be there as long as it takes to secure the gains made — but that is a small quibble.

It seems that common sense is breaking out all over. Isn’t it time for the Democratic presidential candidate and Congressional leaders to take the plunge too and start admitting they haven’t missed the last year of developments on the ground? (Well for Obama, he might at least share with the American people the same level-headed assessment he supposedly provided to the Iraqi Foreign Minister.)