The Surge Stalled?

The great news of last year has been buffeted by brutal news such as yesterday's suicide bomb attack against five US soldiers. The image of a man coming up to those soldiers  - who were on patrol, chatting up residents, doing what we have asked them to do - and calmly exploding himself is hard to get out of one's head. It captures the awful, soul-sapping difficulty of fighting a death cult with no scruples, no rules, no morality, no honor. Now we have more solid data:

Newly declassified statistics on the frequency of insurgent attacks in Iraq suggest that after major security gains last fall in the wake of an American troop increase, the conflict has drifted into at least a temporary stalemate, with violence levels remaining stubbornly constant from November 2007 through early 2008.      

I don't feel in any way vindicated. I don't know what the underlying dynamics are in Iraq - dynamics that are very hard to understand and constantly shifting. The surge has achieved much more in tamping down violence than I expected. But it isn't a panacea; and it can't work miracles. The ditch we're in is deep, as surge supporter Michael O'Hanlon acknowledged today. Only more candor - from Obama and McCain - can help us.