Thomas Sowell

If victory in Iraq was oversold at the outset, there are now signs that defeat is likewise being oversold today.

One of the earliest signs of this was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he could not wait for General David Petraeus' September report on conditions in Iraq but tried to get an immediate Congressional mandate to pull the troops out.

Having waited for years, why could he not wait until September for the report by the general who is actually on the ground in Iraq every day? Why was it necessary for politicians in Washington to declare the troop surge a failure from 8,000 miles away?

The most obvious answer is that Senator Reid feared that the surge would turn out not to be a failure -- and the Democrats had bet everything, including their chances in the 2008 elections, on an American defeat in Iraq.

Senator Reid had to pre-empt defeat before General Petraeus could report progress. The Majority Leader's failure to get the Senate to do that suggests that not enough others were convinced that declaring failure now was the right political strategy.

An optimist might even hope that some of the Senators thought it was wrong for the country.

Another revealing sign is that the solid front of the mainstream media in filtering out any positive news from Iraq and focussing only on American casualties -- in the name of "honoring the troops" -- is now starting to show cracks.

One of the most revealing cracks has appeared in, of all places, the New York Times, which has throughout the war used its news columns as well as its editorial pages to undermine the war in Iraq and paint the situation as hopeless.

But an op-ed piece in the July 30 New York Times by two scholars at the liberal Brookings Institution -- Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack -- now paints a very different picture, based on their actual investigation on the ground in Iraq after the American troop surge under General Petraeus.

It is not a rosy scenario by any means. There are few rosy scenarios in any war. But O'Hanlon and Pollack report some serious progress.

"Today," they report, "morale is high" among American troops and "civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began."

In two cities they visited in northern Iraq "American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate" in providing their own security.

"Today," they say, "in only a few places did we find American commanders complaining that their Iraqi formations were useless -- something that was the rule, not the exception, on a previous trip to Iraq in late 2005."


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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