RNC: The Petraeus Effect

WASHINGTON , April 8, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following editorial is being issued by the Republican National Committee. It is from The Wall Street Journal. As General David Petraeus briefs Congress this week on Iraq , it's clear...


WASHINGTON , April 8, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following editorial is being issued by the Republican National Committee. It is from The Wall Street Journal.

As General David Petraeus briefs Congress this week on Iraq , it's clear his surge has achieved remarkable results. The most crucial is that the U.S. can no longer be defeated militarily in Iraq , which could not be said a year ago. The question now is whether Washington will squander these gains by withdrawing so quickly that we could still lose politically.

Sixteen months after President Bush ordered the change in strategy, the surge has earned a place among the most important counteroffensives in U.S. military annals. When it began, al Qaeda dominated large swaths of central Iraq , Baghdad was a killing zone, Sunni and Shiites were heading toward civil war, and the Iraqi government was seen as a failure.

The Washington consensus -- as promoted by the James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group -- portrayed retreat as the only option. "This war is lost," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in April, thus telling U.S. soldiers they were risking their lives for nothing. As late as September, Hillary Clinton had the nerve to lecture General Petraeus in a Senate hearing that "the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief."

Today, al Qaeda has been cleared from all but the northern reaches of Anbar and Diyala Provinces, Iraqis feel safe enough to resume normal lives, Sunni sheikhs are working with coalition forces, and the long process of Sunni-Shiite political reconciliation has begun. The surge seized the offensive from the enemy so rapidly that it deserves to be studied for years as an example of effective counterinsurgency. ...

None of this would have been possible, however, if Iraqis had not seen that the U.S. was committed to protect them. General Petraeus and his chief deputy, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno , pursued a strategy that secured the population while going on offense against al Qaeda. U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into neighborhoods and lived among Iraqis, who in turn began to supply valuable intelligence about the terrorists. Faster than even the surge's architects hoped, the strategy led to far less violence.

While Democrats still claim political progress is possible only if the U.S. leaves Iraq , the surge has proved the opposite. Better security required a larger U.S. presence, which in turn has made Iraqis feel more secure about compromise. The political progress has been especially significant at the local level, with greater cooperation from tribal leaders and local councils, most Sunnis saying they'll participate in provincial elections this fall, and more oil money flowing to the provinces from Baghdad .

Much remains to be done, of course, and a premature U.S. withdrawal would put these gains at risk. ...

Americans are understandably impatient with the war, but we have sacrificed too much, and made too much progress in the last year, not to finish the task. The surge has prevented a humiliating military defeat, and now is the time to sustain that commitment to achieve a political victory.

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