Shocking New York Times Op-ed: Iraq Is ‘A War We Just Might Win’

On Sunday, NewsBusters reported a shocking discussion that ensued on "The Chris Matthews Show" wherein five liberal media members actually debated why America shouldn't withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Maybe more shocking, the following day, an op-ed was published in the New York Times claiming that "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, "morale is high," and, as a result, this is "a war we just might win."

Adding to the shock is that this piece was written by two members of the Brookings Institution, which even Wikipedia acknowledges is "widely regarded as being politically liberal." The authors - Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack - described themselves as "two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq."

Not anymore. Better prepare yourself for an alternate reality (emphasis added throughout):

The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration's critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

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.

Shocking. But it got even better:

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops...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.

And, the numbers speak for themselves:

[C]ivilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began - though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

[...]

[T]hings 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).

Amazing, wouldn't you agree. Yet, the best was still to come:

In war, sometimes it's important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. 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. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

Maybe most shocking, the authors, almost speaking directly to dovish Democrats in Congress as well as those running for president, concluded:

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

How extraordinary to read this in the New York Times.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.