by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
The larger question that will await General Petraeus is not just the tempo of the surge per se — after all, given the efficacy of the U.S. military it can pretty much do what it wishes if it is willing to invest sufficient amounts of time, material, and manpower, and take casualties.
Rather the dilemma will arise to what degree has the tactical success of the surge allowed a degree of confidence and security that will push Iraq over the top from barbarism to civilization, and thus allow gradual, if at first tiny, withdrawal of U.S. military forces at a timetable that is sober and not pushed by frenzied anti-war public opinion.
Usually successful campaigns help lead to strategic resolutions, but our current one is far more complex, involving the Iraqis’ willingness to step forward to stop the random violence, and the American electorate’s willingness to accept daily depressing news on the assurance that the four-year commitment is both winding down and becoming less costly — while leading to something far better than the prewar past that will contribute to regional and U.S. security.
So the key is not debating whether the surge is “working” (it is), but rather concentrating on the post-surge, and defining exactly what are the conditions that result from it vis á vis Iraqi security, and our military situation and national mood. In the meantime, we must deal the enemy such a blow that security and utilities improve radically, Iraqis join the perceived winning side, and present regional troublemakers alter their assumptions that we are going to leave in defeat to their advantage.
©2007 Victor Davis Hanson