It's good to see there remains continued optimism on Iraq in the mainstream press, outside of the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. This is not to say we should in all cases be uncritical Pollyannas. For example, Anthony Cordesman has a sober analysis of the Pentagon's quarterly report to Congress on the situation in Iraq, though even he provides some glimmer behind the dark clouds. Perhaps he had a chance to skim Amir Taheri's Commentary piece, with its optimistic, on-the-ground look at the allies' accomplishments in Iraq.
Unfortunately, many Americans and Britons, weary of the war, have closed their ears to what these two committed leaders have to say. Bad news from Iraq, including this week's reports of alleged American atrocities at Haditha last November, has obscured the long-term progress made in Iraq. As Mr. Blair noted at Georgetown, there is a danger that politics is becoming a "dialogue of the deaf."
As if to prove his point, a New York Times editorial dismissed what Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush said over the Memorial Day weekend as the "same old 'stay the course' fantasy."
Yet it is not a fantasy to say, as both men did, that Iraqis voted three times last year for a national democratic government and individual freedoms despite daily assaults by anti-democratic forces. Nor is it a fantasy to note that Iraqi politicians have formed the first government under their nation's new constitution, and are moving forward, amidst great difficulty, to create military and police forces that can eventually assume responsibility for keeping the peace.
Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Blair made any promise that this aim will be achieved soon. But they are right to say there is forward progress and correctly underline the critical stakes in Iraq.
Mr. Blair was especially eloquent. The forces seeking to destroy democracy in Iraq, he said at Georgetown, "disagree with our way of life, our values, and in particular [the] value of tolerance. They hate us, but probably they hate those Muslims who believe in tolerance even more ? . They have come to Iraq now because they see it as the battleground." They share, he said, the aims of the suicide teams that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, and Britain on July 7, 2005.
To critics of the Iraq war, he posed the following challenge: "By all means, debate the strategy and tactics of how we succeed. But, I ask, how can we possibly, in the face of such a struggle so critical to our own values not see it through and do so with renewed vigor and confidence?"
And in words that won applause from President Bush, Mr. Blair struck the central question underlying the conflict and the wavering resolve to see it through: "Those people who are fighting us there know what is at stake. The question is: Do we?"
Saturday, June 03, 2006
The Charleston Post and Courier on Persevering in Iraq
Charleston's Post and Courier, the south's oldest daily newspaper, argued yesterday that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were right to reaffirm the alliance's steady progress in Iraq. But the editors note:
Posted by Donald Douglas at 12:47 PM