Ambrose: Don't overlook U.S. success in Iraq

Impressive progress has been made in pacifying Baghdad, and this has to be heartening news to most of us, though not to some in the anti-war crowd unprepared for a sustainable Iraqi success that just might vindicate the surge strategy.

It’s impermissible to them that their prognostications of failure should themselves fail, and so they are saying the retreat of violence must be temporary at best and has not been matched by political repair in the Iraqi government. They point to a host of difficulties that are undeniably real, though no more real than difficulties that U.S. troops and collaborating Iraqis have lately been surmounting.

As first announced by the American military at the start of November and trumpeted more recently by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks in Baghdad have been down by something close to 80 percent from the high point last year.

Civilian casualties have been steadily decreasing from about 3,000 a month to a figure that is now slightly less than 1,000. Reporters in the fieldtell us about neighborhoods where life seems gradually to be returning to a prewar level of peace and calm, attracting hundreds of Iraqi refugees back to their old homes.

Published reports attribute this remarkable achievement in part to the so-called surge, under which 30,000 U.S. troops were added to those already in Iraq. Under the leadership of the brilliant and wholly reliable U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, they aided in flushing al-Qaida terrorists out of their hiding places throughout Iraq and then kept those who were not killed on the run. Observers say this tactic of keeping the terrorist at bay has been crucial in turning things around.

Iraqi security forces have contributed significantly to the effort; the criticism that they are taking on no large responsibilities no longer holds. Hugely important is that both Sunni and Shiite Iraqis have joined in the terrorist purge in all kinds of ways, not always but more and more putting aside their animosities toward each other in a fight for some semblance of sanity and safety for their families.

Obviously, there are no assurances of a continued decline in civilian and military casualties. Plenty could still go wrong. But it does look as if something profoundly important has happened, something that offers more hope for ultimate success in this war than could have been easily imagined not so long ago.

It is a hope, however, that could quite quickly disappear if the U.S. troops disappeared, and those yelping for that to happen ought to concede that the surge is working, that abandonment could be akin to abetting genocide and that a terrorist win in Iraq could haunt us for decades.

So listen really, really carefully to what the politicians are now saying, whether they are sticking to tired, old criticisms refuted by what has lately happened, or whether they instead show some understanding of recently revealed possibilities edging their way toward probabilities and maybe even actualities.

For if the decline in violence continues, it could eventually make the withdrawal of large numbers of U.S. troops something other than an act of negligent surrender. It would instead be the consequence of victory.

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at

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