An op-ed piece in the New York Times by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two Democrats who supported the war but have been strong critics of the peace, shows the first evidence that the Iraq war might be won. Those who read Michael Yon's missives from the front have suspected that General Petraeus was leading a successful surge, but the significance of this report is its source. In the New York Times for goodness sake!
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
... for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).
A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help.
It is very easy to criticise what has been happening in Iraq for the past 4 years. Having taken the decision to remove Saddam, which I supported, the ineptitude of the occupation has been almost unbelievable. In General Petraeus a proper professional is in control and things are looking up. Whether the harm that has been done to Western interests can be retrieved remains to be seen.