Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- There are many reasons for Americans to be hopeful, optimistic and grateful this Christmas season, reasons too often forgotten or lost among the problems and fears that confront us.

We have always been an optimistic, can-do people through wars and depression, even in the face of terrorism. But in the past year, we've seen the nation's mood turn pessimistic about the direction of our country and its future.

The war in Iraq to defeat the terrorists in their breeding grounds, and thereby make future generations safer, has gone badly: dividing our nation about what to do next. However, we live in a democracy where we settle our differences peacefully at the ballot box, and Americans voted for a new strategy and course of action in that conflict.

This is what the Bush administration has set out to do -- not in haste but in a methodical, careful analysis of our options and a plan that will achieve our objectives of preserving a democracy still in its infancy for which so many brave Americans, and Iraqis, gave their lives.

We are a smart people, with dedicated political and military leaders, and I do not have the slightest doubt we can figure this one out in a way that a majority of Americans can support.

The world, especially in the Middle East, seems at times to be in chaos, but this perception is spawned to a large degree by a 24/7, instantaneous global news system that reports all of the world's ills and screens out all of its progress and successes.

The global economy's expansion is one of the free market's greatest achievements, lifting once-impoverished nations to a much higher level of prosperity. China, India, Eastern Europe and much of Latin America are all on fast-growth tracks that are benefiting millions of people.

The continent of Europe, long held back by a still burdensome welfare state and taxation, is slowly but surely putting itself on a growth track that has made it one of the strongest investment regions in the world.

The Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia brims with economic energy and growth as well. The best evidence of this can be seen in the Euro-Pacific growth funds that have delivered double-digit returns for investors.

Here at home, with all of our problems, we are still achieving a level of economic prosperity and human advancement that remains unparalleled in the world.

More people are employed than at any time in American history, more than 150 million of us. Unemployment remains in the low 4 percent range, unmatched in the industrialized world. We seem obsessed by a temporary downturn in housing sales, but long-term homeownership is at nearly 70 percent and climbing.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.