It's always nice to be flattered, but this post is a little uninformed. As readers know, I've long since come to the conclusion that the Iraq war was a terrible strategic mistake, conceptually and operationally. But I've just as long since been open to good things happening in a country that we do not well understand and that is in great flux. And I've been diligent in posting and linking to as much data and reporting in Iraq as possible, data that adds to the argument on all sides. I didn't believe the surge would work because I didn't believe that there were sufficient troops to make it a success (and believed at that point that giving the benefit of the doubt to the Bush administration was a form of insanity). But several factors - Petraeus' obvious genius, the Sunni switch, Sadr's temporary quietude, Maliki's sudden urgency, and the knowledge that America's patience was running low - seem to have tipped the balance. I am delighted to be proven tactically wrong - as I said at the time. But I have been adjusting to the facts on the ground for many months. There is nothing astounding about this post to diligent Dish readers.
More to the point: I do not regard this unexpected progress as a reason to insist on 50 permanent military bases in Iraq or for any other purpose than to find a way out of the place as expeditiously as possible. I see this progress as an opportunity to leave with as little collateral damage as possible.
And in fact, it seems clear to me that the American public's growing impatience with the war was a factor in concentrating some Iraqi minds.
To those who say I was for the war before I was against it, I have long ago conceded the point. I don't think one should hold onto an ideological position when the facts refute it, however painful such a concession would be. Strategically, when you factor in costs, blowback, the absence of WMDs, the blow to US credibility, the hundreds of thousands of dead and injured and displaced, the rise and fall of al Qaeda in Iraq, and the strengthening of Iran's hold on the region, it is clear to me, as it is to most Americans, that the Iraq war was a terrible strategic blunder. But tactically, we are where we are, and no one should be anything but thrilled that the short term is brighter than we could have imagined only a few months ago.
A tactical shift has led to a tactical opportunity. We should leave as soon and as completely as responsibly possible.
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