AT SATURDAY'S New Hampshire debate, Democratic candidates were confronted with a question that they have been ducking for some time: Can they concede that the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq has worked? All of them vehemently opposed the troop increase when President Bush proposed it a year ago; both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama introduced legislation to reverse it. Now it's indisputable that the surge has drastically reduced violence. Attacks have fallen by more than 60 percent, al-Qaeda has been dealt a major blow, and the threat of sectarian civil war that seemed imminent a year ago has receded. The monthly total of U.S. fatalities in December was the second-lowest of the war.Read the whole thing.
A reasonable response to these facts might involve an acknowledgment of the remarkable military progress, coupled with a reminder that the final goal of the surge set out by President Bush -- political accords among Iraq's competing factions -- has not been reached. (That happens to be our reaction to a campaign that we greeted with skepticism a year ago.) It also would involve a willingness by the candidates to reconsider their long-standing plans to carry out a rapid withdrawal of remaining U.S. forces in Iraq as soon as they become president -- a step that would almost certainly reverse the progress that has been made.
What Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson instead offered was an exclusive focus on the Iraqi political failures -- coupled with a blizzard of assertions about the war that were at best unfounded and in several cases simply false. Mr. Obama led the way, claiming that Sunni tribes in Anbar province joined forces with U.S. troops against al-Qaeda in response to the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections -- a far-fetched assertion for which he offered no evidence.
January 8, 2008
A Washington Post editorial: