As you read these lines, our troops are in the midst of Operation
Phantom Phoenix, a "mini-surge" to squeeze al Qaeda and its
fast-dwindling band of allies out of their few remaining safe havens in
Iraqi troops fight beside us against a common enemy.
Vast swaths of the country enjoy a newborn peace. Commerce thrives
again. At the provincial and local levels, the political progress has
As for Operation Phantom Phoenix, our
commanders expected terrorist dead-enders to put up a fight. Instead,
they ran, leaving behind only booby traps and disgust among the Iraqis
they tormented far too long.
Well, they can run, but they
can't hide. We dropped 20 tons of bombs on 40 terrorist targets
yesterday, including safe houses, weapons caches and IED factories. In
a late-afternoon exchange with The Post, Gen. David Petraeus
characterized our current ops as "executing aggressively, pursuing
The headlines at home? "Nine American Soldiers
Killed." No mention of progress or a fleeing enemy on the front pages.
Just dead soldiers.
Determined to elect a Democrat president,
the "mainstream" media simply won't accept our success. "Impartial"
journalists find a dark cloud in every silver lining in Iraq. And the
would-be candidates themselves continue to insist that we should
abandon Iraq immediately - as if time had stood still for the past year
- while hoping desperately for a catastrophe in Baghdad before
These are the pols who insisted that the surge didn't have a chance. And nobody calls 'em on it.
Meanwhile, "Happy Birthday, Surge!"
One year ago, "the surge" kicked off as a forlorn hope, our last chance to get it right.
The odds were against us. Terrorist violence was out of control.
Baghdad was a toxic wreck. Militias ruled, with ethnic cleansing
rampant. And Iraq's leaders couldn't even agree about which day of the
week it was.
We had never applied a coherent military or
political policy in Iraq. Dithering leaders, civilian and in uniform,
squandered American and Iraqi lives. A unique opportunity to jumpstart
change in the Middle East had collapsed amid ideological fantasies, a
looting orgy for well-connected contractors and Washington's simple
unwillingness to really fight.
Even the new US jefe maximo
for Iraq, Petraeus, was a dark horse. He'd just signed off on a
counterinsurgency manual suggesting that the key to defeating
terrorists is to learn to pronounce Salaam aleikum (Peace be with you) properly.
And then it all went right. Confounding Dems who expected him to
preside over a retreat, Petraeus took the fight to the enemy like a rat
terrier on meth. Jettisoning all the p.c. dogma, he turned out to be
the first true warrior we put in command in Iraq.
our way, too - and luck matters in war. Al Qaeda had managed to
alienate its erstwhile Sunni Arab allies in record time. Former
insurgents decided that the Great Satan America made a better dancing
partner than Osama & Co.
Although analysts have missed it
completely, the execution of Saddam Hussein helped, too: It took away
the rallying figure for Sunni hardliners and made it easier for former
insurgents to switch allegiance. The shock of Saddam's hanging jarred
Iraq's Sunni Arabs back to reality: Big Daddy with the mustache wasn't
Meanwhile, the rest of the population was just sick of the
violence. The merchant class wanted to get back to business. Tribal
sheiks felt betrayed by foreign terrorists. And mashallah! We had veteran commanders on the ground who recognized the shifts underway in Iraqi society and capitalized on them.
Petraeus manifested two stages of military genius: 1) He recognized
exactly what had to be done. 2) He didn't imagine he could do it all
Our new man in Baghdad had the wisdom to give subordinate commanders a long leash when they caught a good scent.
Without in any way detracting from Petraeus, the indispensable man, our
success this past year rested heavily upon field commanders far from
the flagpole having the savvy to realize that the local sheik just
needed one last bit of encouragement to jump sides.
Oh, and the left turned out to be dead wrong, as usual. We hadn't
created an unlimited supply of terrorists. In fact, the supply turned
out to be very finite, to al Qaeda's chagrin. And killing them worked. (One of the great untold stories of 2007 was the number of al Qaeda corpses.)
And our former enemies have been killing them for us.
Iraq still faces massive problems, of course. Thirty years of murderous
tyranny under Saddam followed by four years of Coalition fumbling left
the country a shambles. But Iraqis want it to get better.
The military situation is well on the way to being under control. Now
the question is whether Iraq's leaders, especially those from the newly
empowered Shia, can put their country above their personal and
parochial interests (something that we don't expect of our own
politicians these days).
On our side, the immediate problem is
that we lack diplomats as visionary and capable as our soldiers. After
almost a century, the Foggy Bottom fops still can't see beyond a world
gerrymandered by their European idols at Versailles.
we are: The surge worked. It achieved all that we can expect of our
military. 2008 will tell us whether the politicians and diplomats, US
and Iraqi, can do their part.
And a final note: The Post had over a week's advance warning of Operation Phantom Phoenix, but didn't publish it. We don't share our nation's secrets with our enemies.