As Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute -- the intellectual godfather of the Bush "surge" -- has noted, the absence of order is fatal to any government: "Continual violence and death eliminate the people's support for the government, leading to an increase in violence, as individuals and groups undertake to protect and avenge themselves independently of state structures, legal institutions or government sanction." In other words, they cling to militias, insurgents and all the other forces bedeviling us in Iraq.
The surge is meant finally to check this process. But American troops won't be able to do it alone. There is a reason that so many democracies have been created out of reforming authoritarian governments. They provided the prerequisite of order, but with enough breathing space so that eventually freedom could flourish. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki already has a kind of democratic mandate. Now, he needs to act with enough strength to hold his country together. So far, he simply has been demonstrating Edmund Burke's insight that "nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government."
The president's speech was a belated recognition that the Iraqi people need order, and only then will they truly enjoy justice and freedom.