This ABC News report from Baghdad was easily the most hopeful report I've seen in a long while. The surge may be working in a few Baghdad districts with sufficient man-power - finally! - to restore some kind of order. But at the same time we read that

21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.

The Times of London story also contains gruesome details of a truck bomb that killed many children at an elementary school in Kirkuk. The best judgment I can make right now is that a real counter-insurgency plan can and will make a difference where it is actually implemented - as long as it is pursued for an indefinite period with sufficient troop levels. For Iraq as a whole, we're talking 200,000 or more troops for at least five more years. No one in this administration has ever been honest about this, or ever asked for the sacrifices it would entail. And I seriously doubt now whether there will ever be anything close to an American consensus in favor of that - and the expenditure of life and money it would require. What we may be finding out now, in other words, is that this was not an impossible dream. It was simply made impossible by the execution. Which makes the signs of failure and of success all the more excruciating.