Meat and potatoes. Metrics and specifics. That's what George W. Bush provided, finally, for the American people in his speech last week at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Metrics: "80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side by side with coalition forces," "30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility," "3,500 new police officers every 10 weeks."
Specifics: "Regional support units and base support units have been created across the country"; "an Iraqi military academy, a noncommissioned officer academy, a military police school, a bomb disposal school"; "Iraqi battalions have taken over ... the area around Baghdad's Haifa Street."
And answers to the question: Why didn't we achieve this progress earlier? "Because we learned from our earlier experiences and made changes in the way we help train Iraqi troops." Less time in lectures and more training in small arms. More firepower and training for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. Redirecting Iraqi Army units from border control to internal policing.
Bush's critics have long pressed him to admit mistakes. He has been reluctant, for fear critics would pounce on any concession. But now he is saying that our military has been doing what every competent military does: learn from mistakes and adapt to circumstances. Franklin Roosevelt's military learned from setbacks and blunders in the Philippines and North Africa. Bush's military has been learning similarly, and arguably more quickly, in Iraq.
"Americans should have a clear understanding of this strategy," Bush said, and noted that a 38-page National Strategy for Victory in Iraq has been posted on www.whitehouse.gov. But many Americans don't have a clear understanding of that strategy or what has been happening in Iraq. One reason is that adversarial mainstream media have insisted on viewing Iraq through the prism of Vietnam and seeing nothing but endless, pointless slaughter.
In fact, as influential blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit.com) points out, Iraq is a reverse Vietnam. The vast majority of Iraqis want us to succeed and are confident things are getting better; as Sen. Joseph Lieberman put it, this is a fight between 27 million Iraqis and 10,000 terrorists. U.S. military personnel on the ground are buoyant about the progress they've seen, and re-enlistment rates have regularly exceeded quotas.