The contrast between the morning paper and the news on radio and television could not have been more dramatic Thursday morning. The papers, printed before news of Zarqawi's death, might as well have been draped in black. The Washington Post editorialized about terrorist gains in Somalia, scolding Republicans for rejecting nation-building a dozen years ago.
The New York Times meanwhile predicted that the failure of Iraq's new government to fill the posts of interior and defense ministers (they have since been filled) "would be a serious political crisis in any country . . . it is little short of calamitous for Iraq." On the op-ed page, columnist David Brooks lamented that "the insurgents and the militias -- who kill and maim with abandon -- appear to be wearing away the morale of those who seek a decent, democratic nation. Moreover they are winning precisely because they are savage, and are proud to do things their enemies are ashamed to do."
Brooks may turn out to be right. And Somalia may turn into a bigger problem than it was in 1993 when we ventured there on a purely humanitarian mission to feed the starving. And the Maliki government may yet fall apart.
But what a difference a successful military mission makes. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (it is pleasant to reflect that we will no longer have to hear this repellent name) is dead, along with a few of his lieutenants. In the hours after the "safe house" was demolished, at least 17 raids were carried out in greater Baghdad, reportedly based on information gleaned from computers and other materials captured in the Zarqawi hideout. It was, according to Gen. William B. Caldwell, "a treasure trove." Some reports are suggesting that someone within his circle may have betrayed Zarqawi, which cannot be good for morale among the terrorists.