The military — unlike the Bush administration — is strangely silent about its recent successes. The caution is not just due to uncertainty over whether the Sunni Triangle will stay won for good.
Instead, the September testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and the reaction to it — whether the “General Betray Us” Moveon.org ad or Sen. Hillary Clinton’s jab that to believe the general’s testimony required a “willing suspension of disbelief” — reminded officers how Iraq will loom large in election-cycle domestic politics. Getting drawn into such politicking is something responsible military leaders try to avoid.
Nevertheless, we may be witnessing one of those radical, unforeseen reversals in America’s wars that have often changed our history.
The White House was burned by British forces in late August 1814; a little more than four months later, the British were routed at New Orleans. During the Civil War, the Union army was on the ropes in July 1864 yet outside Atlanta by September. The Germans were driving through France in March 1918, but fleeing toward the Rhine by August. The communists took Seoul in early January 1951, yet were pushed back across the Demilitarized Zone a little more than three months later.
Of course, we don’t know the final outcome in Iraq, given the remaining problems of Shiite militias and diehard al-Qaidists — and the question of our own remaining resolve.
The U.S. Army and Marine Corps may well soon stabilize the Iraqi democracy once deemed lost. Or perhaps, in the manner of Vietnam between 1973-5, the public may have become so tired of Iraq — despite the improvement — that it simply wants it out of sight and out of mind.
Either way, history is now being made while we sleep.