Donald Lambro

It's a difficult argument to make, and Bush knows this better than anyone. "In the face of continued reports about killings and reprisals, I understand how some Americans have had their confidence shaken," he told the City Club of Cleveland on Monday.

"Others look on their television screens, and they wonder how I can remain so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq," he said. "They wonder what I see that they don't."

Bush acknowledged that the American-led counterinsurgency has gone through much "trial and error," but that U.S. and Iraqi forces had captured or killed many terrorists and had brought a semblance of peace to cities like Tal Afar (once controlled by Al Qaeda forces).

In the end, the critical nexus of Iraq's future will rely on the deployment of Iraqi troops and police, and here's where there is much reason for hope. "The progress made in bringing more Iraqi security forces online is helping to bring peace and stability to Iraqi cities," Bush said.

Vice President Dick Cheney said Iraqi soldiers are leading about half the military missions now, and that figure will only grow in the months to come.

Bush's optimism is based on a vision of what Iraq will become: a self-governing, robust democracy aligned with the West against the forces of terror. It will not come about quickly or easily, but it will happen.

Where his critics see only doom and gloom, the president sees progress in the growing strength and skills of Iraqi troops, in the hunger for a better life in the Iraqi people and in the inability of the terrorists to stop the movement toward self-government.

A population can live with terrorism for a long time, combating it while they build their nation. Look at Israel. The bombings did not wear down the Israeli people. It only made them more determined to do whatever was necessary to secure their safety and freedom -- and preserve their nation.

That's what the Iraqis are doing now, and that's why they deserve our continued military support until they can defend themselves from the forces of evil that attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.