Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Belated Birthday for the Surge

The Surge is now one year and three days old - and I am three days late in getting this post out. And this is my salute to President Bush, General Petraeus, and all of our soldier's in uniform.

As you will read in the citations below, the Surge has turned around what appeared, at the start of 2006, a lost cause. I could not wax as eloquently on the cause and effects of the Surge as do those below, and so will refrain beyond these few thoughts.

Whether we should have invaded Iraq in the first place is open to very reasonable debate, but that debate today should be consigned to historians only. Once we invaded, Iraq became ground zero for al Qaeda and the radical Islamist movement – with Iran doing their part to section off Iraq. My belief then and now was that the worst possible thing that we could do would be to surrender in Iraq and leave it to the radical Islamists and Iran. The foreseeable costs of that act would far outweigh any costs we might need to win in Iraq and leave it a functioning democracy. That belief was shared by, among others, the West’s foremost Orientalist, Dr. Bernard Lewis.

With that in mind, I have considered the actions of the leadership of the Democratic party to legislate defeat in Iraq at all costs to be suicidally short sighted in terms of our national security and, to the extent such acts were predicated on a desire for partisan gain, treasonous. In 2006, the Democratic meme was that we were in the midst of a civil war, and thus needed to get out of Iraq. Once Bush announced the Surge, the Democratic leadership did all that they could to prevent this strategy from being implemented. And who can forget in April when the Democrat’s Senate Majority Leader, the odious Harry Reid, declared America defeated because of the acts of four al Qaeda suicide bombers.

Bush stated the justification for the surge as to bring security to Iraq in order to give time for the political situation to mature. He announced a series of benchmarks that Iraq needed to achieve: de-Baathification, passage of an oil law, and holding provincial elections being the major ones. And today, with the success of the surge, Democrats seeking partisan political gain still justify retreat from Iraq on the grounds that there has been no political progress towards the passage of the benchmarks.

As to the latter two benchmarks, the oil law is still in Parliament though, in its absence, there is no question that the central government has been distributing oil revenues fairly. Provincial elections are still being arranged with the help of the UN. As to de-Baathification, that benchmark has now been met with legislation passing Iraq’s Parliament today. This severely undercuts Democratic arguments for leaving Iraq, but that in itself means nothing. Refusing to acknowledge success in Iraq and political progress towards reconciliation, expect Democrats to now revise their meme and find yet another pretext why we must immediately withdraw from Iraq – and vote for Democrats in ’08.

As to the surge and Iraq today, there is no question that it is succeeding in bringing security beyond the most optimistic of expectations. All of which has been largely ignored in the MSM. If you want to read an assessment of the surge at the one year mark, you cannot find one anywhere in the liberal media. But you could find it in an editorial in the NY Sun:

. . . Please hold Gen. David Petraeus and the thousands of men and women under his command in your thoughts: They serve to keep America free and safe.
Not that this matters to the peace-at-all-costs crowd.

Uber-dove Ted Kennedy grudgingly conceded the success of the surge yesterday (while sneeringly referring to it as "the escalation").

Said Kennedy: "The violence has declined."

His disappointment was palpable - but not surprising. He was among the congressional Democrats who so arrogantly predicted (hoped?) one year ago that the surge would fail.

Indeed, four days before Bush announced the surge, the top two Democrats on Capitol Hill - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - defiantly declared that "adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans."

New York's own Sen. Chuck Schumer, who normally knows better, complained that the president had offered "a new surge without a new strategy."

And those Democrats who even then were hoping to succeed Bush as commander-in-chief piled on.

"The president's plan has been flawed from the outset," said Sen. Barack Obama, adding: "At what point do we say, 'Enough'?"

John Edwards called on Congress to de-fund the surge and demanded the immediate withdrawal of 50,000 US troops.

And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton - newly converted to fervent opponent of the war following the Democrats' 2006 wins - complained that the surge "will take us down the wrong road."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

American casualties are down sharply, having dropped in each of the past four months. Sectarian violence has declined, as the number of car bombings and suicide attacks has plummeted.

That is to say, the chief objectives of the surge, as defined by Bush last year, are well on the way to being realized.

"Our troops will have a well-defined mission," he said, "to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs."

Iraq, to be sure, is far from a pacified country. Neither can it be said that political normalcy is just around the corner.

. . . But are any of the Democratic candidates honest enough to admit they were wrong?

Are you kidding?

Indeed, as Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman wrote yesterday in The Wall Street Journal: "Had we heeded their calls for retreat, Iraq today would be a country in chaos: a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran."
Instead, "the forces of Islamist extremism are facing their single and most humiliating defeat since the loss of Afghanistan in 2001."

A word about those two senators, one the winner of the New Hampshire GOP primary and the other an independent Democrat who was virtually hounded out of his party for his refusal to join its surrender caucus.

No two people on Capitol Hill have displayed the courage and wisdom they have shown in their continued endorsement of the US mission in Iraq - even as they've criticized its execution.

As McCain warned a year ago: "We have to succeed. We must succeed. The consequences of failure for the region would be catastrophic."

For his part, Lieberman from the outset applauded Bush "for rejecting the fatalism of failure."

Even as Congress was offering resolutions condemning Bush's change in strategy - an act unprecedented in US wartime history - signs of success were becoming apparent.
But Democrats - especially the party's White House hopefuls - either refuse to admit their error or display willful cut-and-run mulishness.

Do none of them understand the consequences of failure in Iraq?

Do they even care?

. . . But the fact remains that the war in Iraq has been turned around - thanks to Gen. Petraeus and his troops, who took the fight to the enemy, and to President Bush's willingness to risk all by changing course.

They all understand that America cannot afford to lose this struggle.

Some of those who hope to be taking the presidential oath of office come next January understand this, too.

That none of them happens to be a Democrat speaks loudly to the decline of a political party that once understood that eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom.

And this from Ralph Peters:

AS you read these lines, our troops are in the midst of Operation Phantom Phoenix, a "mini-surge" to squeeze al Qaeda and its fast-dwindling band of allies out of their few remaining safe havens in Iraq.

Iraqi troops fight beside us against a common enemy. Vast swaths of the country enjoy a newborn peace. Commerce thrives again. At the provincial and local levels, the political progress has been remarkable.

As for Operation Phantom Phoenix, our commanders expected terrorist dead-enders to put up a fight. Instead, they ran, leaving behind only booby traps and disgust among the Iraqis they tormented far too long.

Well, they can run, but they can't hide. We dropped 20 tons of bombs on 40 terrorist targets yesterday, including safe houses, weapons caches and IED factories. In a late-afternoon exchange with The Post, Gen. David Petraeus characterized our current ops as "executing aggressively, pursuing tenaciously."

The headlines at home? "Nine American Soldiers Killed." No mention of progress or a fleeing enemy on the front pages. Just dead soldiers.

Determined to elect a Democrat president, the "mainstream" media simply won't accept our success. "Impartial" journalists find a dark cloud in every silver lining in Iraq. And the would-be candidates themselves continue to insist that we should abandon Iraq immediately - as if time had stood still for the past year - while hoping desperately for a catastrophe in Baghdad before November.

These are the pols who insisted that the surge didn't have a chance. And nobody calls 'em on it.

Meanwhile, "Happy Birthday, Surge!"

One year ago, "the surge" kicked off as a forlorn hope, our last chance to get it right.

The odds were against us. Terrorist violence was out of control. Baghdad was a toxic wreck. Militias ruled, with ethnic cleansing rampant. And Iraq's leaders couldn't even agree about which day of the week it was.

We had never applied a coherent military or political policy in Iraq. Dithering leaders, civilian and in uniform, squandered American and Iraqi lives. A unique opportunity to jumpstart change in the Middle East had collapsed amid ideological fantasies, a looting orgy for well-connected contractors and Washington's simple unwillingness to really fight.

Even the new US jefe maximo for Iraq, Petraeus, was a dark horse. He'd just signed off on a counterinsurgency manual suggesting that the key to defeating terrorists is to learn to pronounce Salaam aleikum (Peace be with you) properly.

And then it all went right. Confounding Dems who expected him to preside over a retreat, Petraeus took the fight to the enemy like a rat terrier on meth. Jettisoning all the p.c. dogma, he turned out to be the first true warrior we put in command in Iraq.

Luck turned our way, too - and luck matters in war. Al Qaeda had managed to alienate its erstwhile Sunni Arab allies in record time. Former insurgents decided that the Great Satan America made a better dancing partner than Osama & Co.

Although analysts have missed it completely, the execution of Saddam Hussein helped, too: It took away the rallying figure for Sunni hardliners and made it easier for former insurgents to switch allegiance. The shock of Saddam's hanging jarred Iraq's Sunni Arabs back to reality: Big Daddy with the mustache wasn't coming back.

Meanwhile, the rest of the population was just sick of the violence. The merchant class wanted to get back to business. Tribal sheiks felt betrayed by foreign terrorists. And mashallah! We had veteran commanders on the ground who recognized the shifts underway in Iraqi society and capitalized on them.

. . . Oh, and the left turned out to be dead wrong, as usual. We hadn't created an unlimited supply of terrorists. In fact, the supply turned out to be very finite, to al Qaeda's chagrin. And killing them worked. (One of the great untold stories of 2007 was the number of al Qaeda corpses.)

And our former enemies have been killing them for us.

Iraq still faces massive problems, of course. Thirty years of murderous tyranny under Saddam followed by four years of Coalition fumbling left the country a shambles. But Iraqis want it to get better.

The military situation is well on the way to being under control. Now the question is whether Iraq's leaders, especially those from the newly empowered Shia, can put their country above their personal and parochial interests (something that we don't expect of our own politicians these days). . .

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