Al-Sadr's Best Hope?
A hat tip to Paul Mirengoff at Powerline, for spotting this Robert Kagan column in yesterday's Washington Post. Mr. Kagan, a conservative scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, notes the current dichotomy in U.S. policy toward Iraq. As Congressional Democrats try to legislate a withdrawal of American forces by next year, there are growing signs that the troops surge--you remember, the strategy that was so roundly criticized just a a few months ago--is working.
Mr. Kagan writes from Brussels (where is wife is the current American Ambassador to NATO), so he relies on others for evidence that the surge is working. And his choices could hardly be described as fellow neo-cons; from Iraq the Model, Kagan cites observations from Baghdad-based bloggers Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, who reported that the surge has "changed the dynamic." Before the troop increase, the Fadhil brothers note, there was an assumption (among friends and foes alike) that the U.S. was preparing to withdrawal. Now, with the U.S. and Iraqi governments devoting required resources to the security situation, those assumptions have changed, and many insurgents have left the city.
Similar comments were made by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who just returned from a week in Iraq. During his stay, Mr. Williams visited the Iraqi cities of Ramidi and Hit, where the security situation was precarious just a few months ago. Now, according to the NBC anchor, The new American strategy of "getting out, decentralizing, going into the neighborhoods, grabbing a toehold, telling the enemy we're here, start talking to the locals -- that is having an obvious and palpable effect." The result, according to Williams, is "that the war has changed."
Readers will note that neither Brian Williams nor the Fadhil brothers are predicting quick victory. But, as Kagan reminds us, there has been a near-dearth of stories about the surge's early success in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Democratic efforts to force a troop withdrawal by 2008 were big news last week, and similar efforts in the future will continue to grab the headlines.
This leads Mr. Kagan to conclude that the Democrats (and their friends in the media) may yet represent the best hope for insurgents. By imposing some sort of artificial deadline, and continuing to emphasize the negative in Iraq, critics of the war--both in the government and the press--can encourage the terrorists to hang on for another year or so, then achieve the victory they have sought for so long.
Kagan concludes by noting that our final success in Iraq is far from assured; the violence continues (albeit at reduced levels), and the insurgents who have fled may return, and cause more problems down the road. And, he says, no one is asking journalists to report only good news from Iraq. But, it would be nice to see a little balance, highlighting the positive effects of the surge (so far), along with the daily diet of car bombings and suicide attacks. Is that likely to happen? I think most of us know the answer to that one.