There is a growing confidence among officers, diplomats and politicians that a constitutional Iraq is going to make it. We don't hear much anymore of trisecting the country, much less pulling all American troops out in defeat.
Critics of the war now argue that a victory in Iraq was not worth the costs,
not that victory was always impossible. The worst terrorist leaders, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Muqtada al-Sadr, are either dead or in hiding.
The 2007 surge, the Anbar Awakening of tribal sheiks against al-Qaida, the change to counterinsurgency tactics, the vast increase in the size and competence of the Iraqi Security Forces, the sheer number of enemy jihadists killed between 2003-8, the unexpected political savvy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the magnetic leadership of Gen. David Petraeus have all contributed to a radically improved Iraq.
Pundits and politicians -- especially presumptive Democratic presidential
nominee Barack Obama -- are readjusting their positions to reflect the new undeniable realities on the ground in Iraq:
The additional five combat brigades of the surge sent to Iraq in 2007 are already redeployed out of the country. American soldiers are incrementally turning province after province over to the Iraqi Security Forces, and planning careful but steady withdrawals for 2009.
Violence is way down. American military fatalities in Iraq for July, as of Tuesday, were the lowest monthly losses since May 2003. The Iraq theater may soon mirror other deployments in the Balkans, Europe and Asia, in which casualties are largely non-combat-related.
Since overseas troops have to be billeted, fed and equipped somewhere -- whether in Germany, Okinawa or Iraq -- the material costs of deployment in Iraq may soon likewise approximate those of other theaters. Anger over the costs of the "war" could soon be simply part of a wider debate over the need for, and expense of, maintaining a large number of American troops anywhere abroad.
For over four years, war critics insisted that we took our eye off Afghanistan, empowered Iran, allowed other rogue nations to run amuck and soured our allies while we were mired in an unnecessary war. But how true is all that?
The continuing violence in Afghanistan can be largely attributed to Pakistan, whose tribal wild lands serve as a safe haven for Taliban operations across the border. To the extent the war in Iraq has affected Afghanistan, it may well prove to have been positive for the U.S.: Many Afghan and Pakistani jihadists have been killed in Iraq, the war has discredited al-Qaida, and the U.S. military has gained crucial expertise on tribal counterinsurgency.