Amid all of the end-of-the-year hoopla surrounding wartime executive power, the upcoming debate on Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito and the controversy about renewing the Patriot Act, it's easy to lose perspective. This has been a year of complicated political situations, from Valerie Plame to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, from Jack Abramoff to Randy "Duke" Cunningham, from New Orleans to Iraq. With wall-to-wall media coverage blanketing us in details ranging from the fascinating to the dreary, perhaps we've lost the forest for the trees. Because amidst all the political turmoil, something grand happened this year: America's situation in the world improved by leaps and bounds.
At the end of 2004, grave doubts about the feasibility of democracy in Iraq remained. No vote had yet taken place; no written constitution had been ratified. But in January 2005, the Iraqi people swarmed to the polls, astounding election observers who believed the threat of violence would deter Iraqis from voting. Still, critics pointed out that the Sunni population had not turned out. On Dec. 15, even that shortcoming was remedied as the strong participation of Sunnis forced an extension of poll hours in some areas of Iraq. And in October, the Iraqi people ratified their Constitution.
There is still work to do, but the end is in sight -- victory is in sight. It is for that reason that the Bush administration, which has been so steadfast in refusing to set a hard pullout deadline, now speaks of drawing down troop levels. In less than three years, America and its allies have turned Iraq from a radical terrorist-funding dictatorship capable of threatening its neighbors into a laboratory of democracy in the Middle East. And 2005 was the turning point.
At the end of 2004, our economy was growing steadily. The unemployment rate had dropped over the course of the year, but many questioned if employment levels would continue to rise -- The New York Times snootily derided the country's "subpar job creation," citing President Bush's tax cuts. So much for that idea. In October 2005, the unemployment rate dropped below 5 percent for the first time since August 2001, and as of December, it is now hovering at 5 percent.
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