The Corner

A Changing Battlefield

Bill Kristol, just back from Iraq, writes in TWS online today about the dramatic changes taking place in Iraq — and in the American debate over Iraq. He says that July

began with Democratic unity in proclaiming the inevitability of American defeat. It ended with respected military analysts–Democrats, no less!–reporting that the situation on the ground had improved, and that the war might be winnable. It began with a plan for a series of votes in Congress that were supposed to stampede nervous Republicans against the continued prosecution of the war. It ended with the GOP spine stiffened, no antiwar legislation passed, and the Democratic Congress adjourning in disarray, with approval ratings lower than President Bush’s. …

Americans’ support for the initial invasion of Iraq has risen somewhat as the White House has continued to ask the public to reserve judgment about the war until at least the fall. …In the real world, the public is skeptical of the administration’s stance on Iraq–but not overwhelmingly or irretrievably so. … 51 percent are now at least open to giving the policy more time. That’s up from 43 percent a month ago. …[P]rogress on the ground in Iraq is likely to continue. It can’t be taken for granted, given the nature of a war against a ruthless and adaptable enemy. Still, one British general–no cheerleader for our conduct of the war in the past–told me in Baghdad last week, “It’s getting better–and I don’t see why it shouldn’t continue to do so.” … This denial will likely get more and more difficult. After all, civilian deaths in Baghdad are decreasing, and al Qaeda’s networks and safe havens are being systematically disrupted. In Anbar, and now in Diyala, a bottom-up reconciliation is moving ahead as tribal sheikhs have turned against al Qaeda and are siding with American troops and Iraqi Security Forces. …What’s more, the public debate will move from a referendum on Bush’s conduct of the war over the past four years to a discussion of the choices ahead, as Gen. Petraeus’s testimony in September draws near. The public will finally have to consider seriously the implications of giving up on Iraq, as opposed to supporting the continued prosecution of a war we might well win. …

Clifford D. May — Clifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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