World stock markets applauded the sooner-than-expected U.S. handover to Iraq. Energy prices fell significantly. Former Coalition Administrator Paul Bremer immediately took the next plane out of town. Things are looking up. Wasn't it Sinatra who sang "love is lovelier the second time around"?
Quoting from the Bayonne, N.J., crooner is not as far fetched as one might think. Here is market strategist Barry Ritholtz on the surprise handover decision:
"The neo-conservative hawks who pressed for the invasion of Iraq failed to create an adequate strategy for a postwar period. This created an opportunity for insurgents to cause havoc and mayhem. With the handover to the Iraqi Ruling Council a few days early, the planners have gotten one right for a change."
Speaking to National Public Radio, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage talked about the benefit of "somehow confusing the (terrorists') plans, or what we believe are plans, to disrupt the proceedings." Ah, we are learning. The second time around.
In the same vein, a New York Times front-page headline (believe it or not) declared "Army Used Speed and Might, Plus Cash, Against Shiite Rebel." The story went on to say, "... the campaign was a mix of military tactics, political maneuverings, media management and a generous dollop of cash for quickly rebuilding war-ravaged cities -- a formula that ... could become a model for future fighting against the persistent insurrections plaguing Iraq."
In other words, American forces are starting to figure out how to win the postwar battle. And they're going to get some help from the new Iraqi government. A new poll of Iraqis shows that 68 percent has confidence in the interim government, 73 percent approves of the Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and 84 percent approves of President Ghazi Yawar. Nearly 80 percent of Iraqis expect that the new government will "make things better" for Iraq after the handover.
Of course, all this is a positive turn of events for President George W. Bush, who is in the fight of his life in the re-election campaign against Sen. John F. Kerry. The economy is throwing off plenty of good news for Bush, with private-sector gross domestic product (minus all that defense spending) growing 5.5 percent over the past four quarters, wage and salary income rising 5.1 percent, and 1.4 million newly created jobs since last summer.