My optimistic military emailer from yesterday, it needs to be said, added this vital caveat:
Of course, all of this still means nothing if there is no political accommodation. There is not and has never been a military solution to Iraq. The best we can do is keep chaos and fear from preventing a solution.
And the news on that front remains as dire as ever. That's why I find Glenn Reynolds' view of what's happening in Iraq to be more than typically glib. Let's hope he doesn't unfurl a banner over his blog. It seems to me that we should all be thrilled at the sharp decline in violence in Iraq, alongside 160,000 US troops with a serious counter-insurgency strategy. I certainly didn't think we could achieve that with that number of troops, and I'm still not entirely clear what the precise factors are behind it. But, despite this unexpected progress in bringing Iraq back from a hot civil war, I see no serious reason to believe that the potential for such a war re-booting is in any way "over". We still have no indication of the kind of national reconciliation that the surge was designed to engineer, and the president himself said was the sole criterion of success. That is the only meaningful rubric by which to judge the current strategy; and currently, it's still failing - not because of the troops, but because of the Iraqi "leadership".
Sure, we could just use the short-term calm to get the hell out and hope for the best - but I thought that was the Democrats' strategy, not Bush's. (It's basically my preferred strategy as well, at this point.) We have no idea what will happen when the surge ends, as it must, next spring. We have, thanks to Petraeus and exhausted troops, a once-only window of opportunity to rescue something from the wreckage. But that window closes soon - and only the Iraqi political leadership can take advantage of it. What reason do we have for believing they are now ready to sink their differences? Surely that's the only basis to argue that the war is heading to a "successful close" rather than a permanent occupation. Or are they the same thing in the neocon mindset?