And there is much evidence, among the bombings and other acts of violence, that incremental progress is being made. One of the major changes going on there is the formation of alliances between Sunni leaders, tired of the death and destruction, and U.S. military leaders on the ground.
When Sunni leader Abu Ali asked U.S. commanders for their help in taking on insurgents in Diyala province, things changed for the better. "Using his Iraqi partners to pick out the insurgents and uncover the bombs they had seeded along the cratered roads ... (U.S. soldiers) soon apprehended more than 100 militants, including several low-level emirs," the New York Times reported last week.
Similar U.S. military alliances with sheikhs in Anbar province "have made an enormous difference in what was the most dangerous province in Iraq," New York Times reporter John Burns said Monday on PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." Or listen to Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of coalition forces south of Baghdad: "We just got the surge brigades in the fight on the 15th of June. That was only three weeks ago. And we're already having great effect in my areas. We have killed 50 of the enemy. We have captured over 250 more. We have taken away 50 weapons caches. And we are having an effect," Lynch said Sunday on CNN. It is important to understand that the surge under Petraeus' command has only just begun in full force. But in that time, sectarian killings are down substantially, terrorist arms caches are being discovered at three times the rate of last year and Iraqi military recruitment has risen significantly. A midterm assessment of the war, mandated by the war-funding bill that Bush signed in May, will be out this weekend, highlighting the progress as well as the remaining challenges, but counseling that time is needed for the surge to achieve its mission.
America's best and bravest have given their lives for the hard-fought gains we've won there. Now, Bush's plea comes down to this: Let's give the surge a chance to work so we can start bringing our troops home by next year.