Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- It does not have the drama of the Inchon landing or the sweep of the Union comeback in the summer of 1864. But the turnabout of American fortunes in Iraq over the last several months is of equal moment -- a war seemingly lost, now winnable. The violence in Iraq has been dramatically reduced. Political allegiances have been radically reversed. The revival of ordinary life in many cities is palpable. Something important is happening.

And what is the reaction of the war critics? Nancy Pelosi stoutly maintains her state of denial, saying this about the war just two weeks ago: "This is not working. ... We must reverse it." A euphemism for "abandon the field," which is what every Democratic presidential candidate is promising, with variations only in how precipitous to make the retreat.

How do they avoid acknowledging the realities on the ground? By asserting that we have not achieved political benchmarks -- mostly legislative actions by the Baghdad government -- that were set months ago. And that these benchmarks are paramount. And that all the current progress is ultimately vitiated by the absence of centrally legislated national reconciliation.

I can understand Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, saying that the central government needs to seize the window provided by the surge to achieve political reconciliation. We would all love to have the leaders of the various factions -- Kurd, Shiite, and Sunni -- sign nice pieces of paper tying up all the knotty questions of federalism, de-Baathification and oil revenues.

What commander would not want such a silver bullet that would obviate the need for any further ground action? But it is not going to happen for the same reason it has not already happened: The Maliki government is too sectarian and paralyzed to be able to end the war in a stroke of reconciliation.

But does the absence of this deus ex machina invalidate our hard-won gains? Why does this mean that we cannot achieve success by other means?

Sure, there is no oil law. But the central government is nonetheless distributing oil revenues to the provinces, where the funds are being used for reconstruction.

Sure, the de-Baathification law has not been modified. But the whole purpose of modification was to entice Sunni insurgents to give up the insurgency and join the new order. This is already happening on a widening scale all over the country in the absence of a relaxed de-Baathification law.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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