Paul Greenberg

This week's news from Iraq isn't good, though when has it ever been? Well, maybe during those exceptional times when Washington was paying close attention and American troops were being given the support and leeway to do their job right. Indeed, superlatively. As they can be given their head and led by field commanders like David Petraeus, a thoughtful leader who had prepared himself -- and our whole military culture -- for a new kind of warfare called counterinsurgency.

Gen. Petraeus would later become a-cropper about a matter quite outside the military realm but all too common among the male and weaker sex. But he will forever deserve the respect of his fellow soldiers, and his fellow Americans, for turning imminent defeat into remarkably quick victory in Iraq.

This general not only wrote the book when it comes to counterinsurgency, or at least compiled and edited it, but put its ideas into practice when finally given the chance. By a president who could acknowledge that American strategy in Iraq had failed, and it was time to change it, his secretary of defense, and the country's whole approach to the war there. And change it dramatically, decisively, completely. And quickly. While there was still time to save the day and a country, and turn things around on a pivotal front in this long, long war against terror. Despite the dangers he knew such a U-turn risked, and despite all the usual kibitzers who warned him it would never work.

But it did. That new strategy was the Surge, and the president was George W. Bush. The doomsayers were legion at the time -- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden -- but this bold new approach worked surprisingly well, so well that a president named Barack Obama would adopt it in Afghanistan, too. As he has so many of his predecessor's tactics in the War Against Terror, even if he cannot bring himself to call it that.

Whatever our president's criticisms of his predecessor, imitation remains the sincerest form of praise. By now Barack Obama has racked up some impressive victories of his own in this never-ending struggle. Just ask one Osama bin Laden, wherever in kingdom come he may be now, courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seals.

This current commander-in-chief has by now acquired his own loud critics, left and right, by prizing practical results more than ideological fantasies. See the list of terrorists who have come afoul of those ever-watchful drones during his tenure. Happily, Mr. Obama has not hesitated to approve their use, though no one denies they can claim innocent victims, as war always does.


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.