Much of the domestic political debate, I think, revolves less about what is happening or will happen in Iraq than it does about what kind of nation we are. I want it to be my country again -- that was one of the themes of Howard Dean's campaign in the early days of our military involvement in Iraq, and it is one of the themes, as best I can tell, of candidates who call for a pullout from Iraq today.
My country, this line of thought seems to go, is not a country that tries to accomplish things by force or violence; my country is a country that is willing to negotiate, that respects the feelings of those in other countries, that tolerates differences of opinions among the peoples of the world, that does not seek to dominate them or to impose our own morality. After all, who's to say we're better than anyone else?
All of which is fine, up to a point. Bush has said that he didn't take office wanting to be a war president, and Franklin Roosevelt certainly didn't, either. Nor did Harry Truman, though he was faced soon with deciding whether to drop the atomic bomb and, five years later, deciding whether to respond to the communist invasion of South Korea.
Bush is surely correct in supposing that the Islamist terrorists we are fighting in Iraq want to do grievous damage to us and that their ability to do so will be increased if we leave Iraq in failure. A Middle East in shambles is scarcely in our interest. Bush and Gen. Petraeus may or may not have come up with a winning strategy and tactics. But the results in Anbar show that the twists and turns of war can be unexpectedly good as well as unexpectedly bad. Wouldn't it be better to see if the surge produces success than to pull the plug now?