WASHINGTON, D.C. -- So he didn't take my advice. Despite recommendations to the contrary in this column last week, President Bush announced Wednesday night that he's "committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq." That's the headline. But there's a lot more to the story. It's rife with risk -- and great opportunity.
First, the good news: The most important statement of the speech was an accurate description of the present situation. Said Bush: "The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time." The president went on to acknowledge that "only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people," and that "failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States." He's dead right on all counts.
His new strategy for using U.S. forces in Baghdad follows a model now being effectively employed in Al Anbar Province. There, as we reported last month from Ramadi for FOX News, Sunni police officers, Shia Army troops and U.S. military personnel have been building police stations and driving Al Qaeda terrorists out of the provincial capital one neighborhood at a time. The administration's "New Way Forward" also concedes the need for the Maliki government to apply the rule of law equally, the necessity for provincial elections and recognition that local leaders -- like Sheikh Abdel Sattar -- are crucial to rallying the minority Sunni population in defending Iraq from foreign intervention.
Bush promised more "embedded" advisers to accelerate training Iraqi police and Army units, less onerous "restrictions" on U.S. troops and a desperately needed emphasis on Provincial Reconstruction Teams to improve economic resuscitation and new laws ensuring equitable distribution of Iraq's vast oil wealth. And though the masters of the mainstream media and our professional punditry generally ignored the point, instead of coddling Iran and Syria, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group, the president is choosing to confront them, promising to "destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.