As the reports of successes in Operation Phantom Thunder seep through the national consciousness, I've tried to distinguish between opponents' arguments that it is failing to provide security, and that it is failing to prompt political reconciliation. In that regard, I believe we've hit a milestone: Harry Reid has stopped arguing that the surge is not improving security.
While our brave men and women continue to fight Iraq’s civil war, Iraqis remain far from a political solution and have not demonstrated any readiness to stand up and take responsibility for their own country. And as President Bush continues to cling stubbornly to his flawed strategy, Al Qaeda only grows stronger.Reid then ticks off the evidence that political reconciliation is not happening:
- Sunnis are deserting the Iraqi government;
- Secretary Gates says recent developments are 'discouraging;'
- Iraq's Parliament took August off without passing key initiatives;
- Iraq has not assumed control of key reconstruction projects; and,
- July was the 2nd-deadliest month for Iraqis.
This is a welcome development. As I've noted before, any decision on what to do about 'the surge' come September is based on two separate judgments: is the surge improving security; and is the improved security enabling sufficient political progress. With Reid now ignoring the first question, it's safe to say he recognizes the improvement. If this statement from him can be regarded as a preview of his arguments against the surge in September, it seems he's decided to focus primarily on the question of political progress.
In the meantime, Austin Bay looks at the decision of the UN to return to Baghdad. He sees it as a welcome development, but cautions against expecting too much.
Update: Ed Morrissey notes the LATimes report that Petraeus may recommend the withdrawal of some US troops from areas where there's been progress in reducing violence. That's the sort of dramatic move that might force some Americans to re-think what they thought they knew about our 'failure' in Iraq.
If it happens, and the Iraqi forces can keep the peace, it would mark an unmistakable 'turning-the-corner' moment.