Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, seem lost in a time warp. They could try to impose new benchmarks that acknowledge the military progress. Instead, too many seem unable or unwilling to admit that President Bush's surge of 30,000 more troops has succeeded beyond their initial predictions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who in the spring declared the war lost, said last week that "the surge hasn't accomplished its goals." Anti-war Democrats remain fixated on tying war funding to a rapid troop withdrawal. Yet pulling the troops out precipitously threatens to squander the progress of recent months toward salvaging a decent outcome to the Iraq debacle.
No one in Iraq is covered with glory, except our wonderful fighting men who persist while traitorous cowards like Reid try to undercut them on the home front. Republicans keep lowering the bar, and Iraqi politicians like Maliki continue their second-rate performance in nation-building. USA Today has the following summary:
What's needed is acknowledgment that the surge is achieving what was intended: not complete military victory but enough stability to make political compromise possible. What's missing is Iraqi will to take advantage of the success.
So far, the Iraqis have missed just about every benchmark that Congress set early this year and Bush promised to enforce. Too often, they just don't seem to be making an effort. Those benchmarks included passing laws on sharing oil revenue, allowing more former Baath Party members into official jobs and holding provincial elections.
To some degree, the positive "bottom up" developments mitigate that failure. The Sunnis, for instance, have abandoned their political isolation and now want to participate in the government. But the Shiites' persistent resistance to letting them in makes a case for new, meaningful benchmarks, not trivial certainties such as simply passing a budget, one of the requirements the White House has set.
Beyond benchmarks, the military progress has been paralleled by a less aggressive stance by Iran, creating another opening. Iran has enormous influence in Iraq, particularly in Shiite regions. More aggressive diplomacy of the kind advocated by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group would help — even a regional conference such as the one the United States recently hosted in Annapolis, Md., to restart Middle East peace talks.
Despite Harry Reid's encouragement, Al Qaeda is marginalized. In addition, Iran is lessening its covert involvement and the Sunni tribal chiefs have switched sides. But old feuds persist, and settling scores inside Iraq's political thickets still has priority over a final settlement.
A regional conference sounds far-fetched, but perhaps it would shut up the loo-zers like Reid & some Dem candidates whose statements on Iraq & withdrawal seem to advocate precipitous surrender at the very moment when our blood & treasure have procured an opportunity to "seize the moment," as USA Today recommends.
USA Today's editorial writers have far more foreign policy wisdom than political hacks inside the Beltway.