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 SpeaktoJay@aol.com

Op Edsop-edOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The admissions process at the academically competitive Lowell High School is set to change this year due to coronavirus restritions. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Lowell’s selective admissions process put on hold this year — and more changes may be in the works

School board votes unanimously to use normal student assignment lottery for competitive school

Dr. Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, said Tuesday that student would not be back in school before the end of this calendar year. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Superintendent: City schools will not reopen before the end of the year

San Francisco public schools won’t reopen to students for the rest of… Continue reading

San Francisco has failed to reduce traffic deaths enough to meet its Vision Zero goal. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco not on track to meet Vision Zero goals by 2024

Hamstrung by state laws, dwindling budget and limited resources, SFMTA tries to chart path forward

San Francisco will allow bars selling drinks, and not food, to begin serving customers outdoors under health guidelines going into effect next month. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF becomes first Bay Area County to move to least restrictive COVID-19 category

Change to ‘yellow’ will allow more indoor dining and fitness, reopening non-essential offices

City officials want to install more red light cameras but the process is costly and time consuming. (Shutterstock)
Transit officials push for more red light cameras

SFMTA says ‘capital crunch’ and dragging timelines make expanding the program cumbersome

Most Read