“I did run into anxiety among many Iraqi officials about talk of a precipitous American withdrawal from Iraq,” Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., reported after a recent trip to Iraq. “Regular Iraqis on the street see the vital and critical importance of a durable American presence, at least in the near term. And people understand the American soldier, combined with the cooperation of Sunni and Shia Arabs in this country, is the pathway toward stability and a successful free and democratic Iraq.”
This support is critical, because the United States cannot simply wash its hands of the Middle East, no matter how much we might want to. As we learned on Sept. 11, the oceans no longer protect us against the pathologies of a handful of religious extremists.
The U.S. needs to engage Muslims and encourage them to settle peacefully the differences within their faith. We’re seeing that today in Iraq, where Sunni Muslims increasingly are working with Shia Muslims to put an end to violence. This is the best way forward.
It was five years ago this month that the United States led a coalition into Iraq to, finally, remove Saddam Hussein and defend the international law he’d flouted for decades. In the years since, we’ve enjoyed successes and suffered setbacks. Predictably, opinion polls have moved up and down over the course of the war.
But the bottom line is that the surge is working.
“He conquers who endures,” the Roman poet Persius once wrote. That’s true in Iraq as well.
If we press on in helping to pacify that nation and bringing Muslims together to battle al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, we can make the world a safer, more secure place. A worthwhile goal, to say the least -- even if the news doesn’t make the front page.