Early reports suggest that in the wake of the president's speech, Maliki has withdrawn his protection from the Sadrists. That's a good sign. So are the new rules of engagement that will permit U.S. forces to enter any and all neighborhoods in Baghdad in search of bad guys. But to succeed, Maliki must also work to train (with U.S. assistance) a minimally competent police force, drastically reduce corruption in the ministries and arrange a fair distribution of oil revenues to all of Iraq's groups and regions. Will he do so? Unclear.
And what if he doesn't? As John Derbyshire of National Review Online observes, "We seem to be saying to the Maliki government: 'Hey, you guys better step up to your responsibilities, or else we're outta here.' This, a few sentences after saying that we can't leave the place without a victory."
The other reason to sleep poorly at night is that the president's plan has an impossibly short time frame on it. In an ideal world, both parties would recognize the disastrous results of a defeat in Iraq and would signal our resolve to win. But the Democrats (and some Republicans) are all too comfortable with failure. Leading Democrats like the speaker of the House and potential presidential candidates are indicating that if they take the White House, American withdrawal from Iraq is a certainty.
Our enemies watch CNN and read The New York Times. Perhaps they've noticed how eager Democrats are to cast the president's decision as an "escalation" rather than a surge. They like the word escalation because it conjures Vietnam. Vietnam is the Democrats' alpha and omega. It's the war we lost (thanks in part to them), and they seem to want to return to the scene of the crime.
The president has freed himself from some of the rigidity that characterized his conduct of the war. The Democrats, unfortunately, are stuck in theirs.