Conservative pundits have made this complaint ever since the beginning of the surge, but now the editorial board of the Washington Post adds its voice to the protest. They note the “odd” lull in reporting and debate on Iraq over the last few weeks, but fail to draw the obvious conclusion. The American media and the Democrats became so invested in American defeat that they have decided to ignore the collapse of their position as Iraq stabilizes:
THERE’S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks — which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war. While Washington’s attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have “never been closer to defeat than they are now.”
Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained “special groups” that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. It is — of course — too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments — and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the “this-war-is-lost” caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
All of this comes as good news for Iraqis, good news for the US, and good news for the region — but as unwelcome news to the American media and the Democrats. They have predicted nothing but defeat and chaos for so long that they cannot find any way to pivot to embrace the success of the venture. Both predicated their forward strategies on that defeat and now flounder to adapt to Nouri al-Maliki’s sudden emergence as a unifying figure of strength in Iraq.
In order to do so, they would have to answer for the defeatism of Harry Reid, who declared the war lost a year ago on the floor of the Senate. They would have to answer for their antagonistic reception for General David Petraeus in September 2007, when he warned Congress that the new strategies had begun to succeed and the Iraqi Army was close to self-sufficiency. The likely nominee would have to answer for his refusal to meet with Petraeus for an individual, in-depth briefing to find out how much the situation has changed since his only visit to Iraq in January 2006.
The only mission that needs to be accomplished is an orderly exit from Iraq, and Mr. Bush is no closer to acknowledging that reality. Neither is Senator John McCain. All Congress seems capable of is hand-wringing.
So it is up to Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to revive the national debate on Iraq — and up the pressure on the White House. While it is clear that Mr. Bush has no intention of coming up with an exit strategy, there are things he could do to give his successor a better chance at containing the chaos after American troops leave.
Amazingly, or perhaps not so much so considering the general flackery of the Times, this editorial manages to ignore every salient point mentioned in the WaPo article. It makes no mention that violence in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level since the invasion. The Times’ editorial board doesn’t acknowledge the liberation of Basra and Mosul by the Iraqi Army, nor the defeat of the Mahdi Army in its power base of Sadr City. Instead, it speaks hysterically of Iraq as a “very dangerous place” and talks about an increase in casualties in April without noting at all the steep decline in all casualties in May.
The defeatists have been exposed. They cannot run, but they can keep spinning. Even their colleagues in the media have begun to notice the good news, however, and the facade of defeat has begun its inevitable collapse.
Update: I misunderstood Bruce’s post. That NYT editorial was from a month ago — the last time they weighed in on Iraq. Today’s editorials are on housing trust funds, cluster bombs, and parliamentary debate. All of this does allow them to avoid acknowledging the irrational defeatism of that last entry, however.