Paul Greenberg

The success of the Surge, and the formal agreement with the Iraqi government to hand over control of the war to the Iraqis themselves in orderly stages, opens the way for American forces to come home in honor rather than fleeing in haste, leaving a vivisected nation and a raging civil war behind. Which was Joe Biden's "solution" to the challenge Iraq posed. But even he seems to have seen the folly of that course, or at least he never mentions it any more -- and has removed all traces of it from his Web site. The man does have some shame after all.

The incoming president will inherit an increasingly free, stable and democratic Iraq when he comes into office. Saddam Hussein is gone and his aggressive dictatorship with him. He will not be around to challenge the next administration. American troops and our Iraqi allies stand on the verge of victory thanks -- dare anyone say it? -- to the utter determination of the president whom Barack Obama criticized so bitterly during the campaign.

It would be nice if the next secretary of state showed a little humility. Her confirmation hearing would be the perfect occasion for Hillary Clinton to apologize to Gen. Petraeus for her snide comment that it would take "a willing suspension of disbelief" to think his strategy would work in Iraq. As it did. Even more quickly than its supporters had hoped. The sight of an apology coming from Hillary Clinton might shock, but it would clear the air. And really be a new beginning.

Ms. Clinton will be bringing a lot of baggage to her new job, most of it named Bill. But the word is that Mr. Clinton has agreed to separate his own suspect web of international deals from his spouse's new responsibilities by coming clean about all those mysterious contributions to his foundation. And taking a number of other steps to avoid conflicts of interest for his spouse. He's to start acting with the kind of circumspection a former president should exercise. We'll see.

Another familiar -- and assuring -- face on the Obama team will be Robert Gates, the current secretary of defense who continues to oversee the rebuilding of the country's armed forces from its Rumsfeldian low. Mr. Gates, too, objected to any arbitrary deadline for leaving/abandoning Iraq when that idea was all the rage. It will be good to have his steady hand still on the tiller, at least for a while.

Some policies in Washington don't need a new beginning so much as a good follow-through, and Secretary Gates has earned the respect of all who have watched him restore the morale and reinvigorate the mission of the country's armed forces.

The foreign policy and defense team the president-elect now has announced, like the economic team he announced the week before, assures. He's coming down from the clouds to solid ground.

For now I'm not going to think about which teacher union-approved educantist Barack Obama might name as his secretary of education, the better to hasten the continuing deterioration of the country's public schools -- the kind of schools the Obamas would never choose for their own children.

But enough of that. Why spoil a good day? Let us instead pray for our next president's continued success and good health, especially when remembering who his vice president is to be.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.