I dunno. I look across the Iraqi border and see Kuwait -- "a secure and stable" state, to be sure, "friendly"-ish to the United States, and "victorious" over Saddam Hussein, all fruits of an earlier U.S. victory. But there was absolutely nothing transformative about that accomplishment, not in the region, not in the Muslim world. (You'd think we'd at least get a break on oil prices from countries we saved from Saddam Hussein.) Do we have reason to expect that even a democratic Iraq will turn into something better -- a linchpin of our Middle Eastern strategy?
Listening to Gen. David Petraeus low-ball the much-vaunted surge's effect -- "I wouldn't ever use the word success or victory or anything like that," he recently told Voice of America -- and express frustration at the pace of Iraqi "reconciliation" to The Washington Post, it's hard to say yes. And especially not after sifting through the more disturbing findings of a recent BBC poll of Iraqi opinion. For selective optimists, the poll does indeed reflect an increasing Iraqi optimism, which has cheered conservatives as happy anniversary news. What has gone more or less overlooked (or dismissed) are the survey results indicating a shocking Iraqi hostility to America's efforts on Iraq's behalf.
For example, 79 percent of Iraqis have not much or no confidence in U.S. forces; 70 percent think U.S. forces have done a bad or very bad job; and, most appalling, 42 percent think attacks on U.S. forces are acceptable. Acceptable! This last figure is down 15 points from six months ago, so I suppose we should applaud the "progress." But just imagine if, after D-Day in 1944, 42 percent of the French believed attacking Americans was "acceptable"; or if after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950, 42 percent of South Koreans did, too; or if 42 percent of Grenadians after being liberated by Ronald Reagan in 1983 were of the same violently anti-American mind.
Would we consider such peoples worthy of American blood and treasure? And would we consider them likely linchpins of a long-term alliance?
"Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it," the president said. Me, I'm still waiting for a straightforward discussion of what it is we can reasonably expect to win.