12.05.2005

IRAQ VICTORY: MIDDLE EAST SALVATION

The U.S. will not abandon Iraq. To me, it means that the U.S. will not abandon the Middle East. Some recent stances and statements in the U.S urging to quit Iraq have shocked me. I find it, and I am sorry for this expression, extremely irresponsible, and definitely harming U.S. interests and the Middle East democratization movement.

I definitely look positively at any deliberate prospective troops reduction, but setting a timetable of withdrawal, as U.S. giving up, would blow up the reform movement and the liberal renaissance in the Middle East. Furthermore, that would also blow up the American interests and credibility in the region. Jeopardizing all that for some politics gains is something approaching treason.

The Americans must clearly know that this war in Iraq is a requisite for ensuring the 21st century as an American century. The post-cold war chaotic international order is dying because is no more able to tackle world problems. And a new dangers and serious threats endangering the U.S. and the rest of world, specially since 9/11. Pre-empting those dangers and threats, adapting to the changing geopolitics of the world and reacting to it, ensuring the American interests wherever in the world and creating the foundations of a new consistent, coherent and competent international order are requisites for an American century and American-guaranteed international peace and stability. What has been done after the world war ΙΙ is something alike, so what is happening now after 9/11. When Europe was geopolitically the heart of the world, America moved to Europe and fought there with ideas and forces to restore and maintain peace and stability. No more Europe is the heart of the world, the strategic center is moving eastwards to the Middle East. The Middle East now is a key region to security, energy and world geopolitics – as a strategic location to approach the rising powers and future rivals, China and India.

Iraq has become the base of transforming the Middle East and eliminating the authoritarianism and totalitarianism with the democratic shine and the western back up. Furthermore, Iraq is becoming the real base of changing the geopolitics of the region and replacing the old Middle East regional system with a new one more modern, transparent, democratic and integrated with the world, ending the cold war era and the Soviet legacy in the region.

The consequent new Middle East is a key factor in the process of development of the new world order, which would cope with world stability, security and progress. We are facing a historic challenge and task, so we should apply a relevant and responsible approach.

The war in Iraq is the war of the Middle East. It is a war of ideas and powers. The fearful totalitarian terrorist regimes are fighting the United States in Iraq as a symbol of fighting and intimidating the spreading free world after the cold war, to destroy the democratic perspective and to encompass freedom in their territories.

The war is worth all the sacrifices that have been made, and victory is inevitable, and not so far away. Those brave soldiers in Iraq are ensuring America's security and interests for decades to come and getting our freedom dream in the Middle East a reality, which is turning into international objective and necessity.

I am not anxious because I believe that the distinguished scholars, like Dr. Rice the Secretary of State would not miss the political phenomena.

Some Related posts:

-Promoting Freedom and Democracy is a Vital Part of the War on Terror
-The bases of the U.S. Mideast policy
-Rice's Testimony on Iraq Strategy
-The U.S. Strategy on Iraq
-Terror and democracy in the Middle East
-Strategies for Promoting Democracy in Iraq
-Iraq and Bush's Legacy
-An Iraqi Perspective on Defending Iraq
-Iraq's Message to Mr. Blair
-Strategy, Strategy Everywhere…

Here is the related information:


White House Releases Broad Iraq Strategy

Bush administration report defines victory in three stages


(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

The United States issued a national strategy November 30 that carefully defines three stages for victory in Iraq, describes the enemy facing coalition and Iraqi forces, and reports on progress being made along political, economic and security fronts.

The report -- National Strategy for Victory in Iraq -- explains the broad strategy President Bush set forth for success in Iraq in 2003, but also provides an update on progress and the challenges that remain, according to the White House. The strategy released November 30 is the first time much of the material has been assembled in an unclassified document, the White House said.

Currently, the United States has 160,000 combat troops in Iraq along with thousands of combat troops from coalition nations, and there are approximately 212,000 Iraqi security forces, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said.

Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing November 29 that quitting Iraq now before Iraqi forces can protect and secure their own country would add considerable security risks to the United States. "Quitting is not an exit strategy," he said. (See related article.)

President Bush gave a speech November 30 at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, that addressed the American objectives in Iraq and the plan for victory. The national strategy released by the White House and prepared by the National Security Council is designed to expand on Bush's remarks.

"As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism," the strategy says.
The strategy defines victory in three stages:

• Short term: Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions and standing up security forces.

• Medium term: Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.

• Long term: Iraq is peaceful, united, stable and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

"Failure in Iraq will embolden terrorists and expand their reach; success in Iraq will deal them a decisive and crippling blow," the strategy says. "The fate of the greater Middle East -- which will have a profound and lasting impact on American security -- hangs in the balance."

Failing in Iraq would permit terrorists to use Iraq as a safe haven from which they could plan attacks on the United States, its interests abroad, and on U.S. allies and friends, according to the strategy.

"Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region" if the United States withdrew from Iraq before securing the nation, the strategy says.

The national strategy says that the United States will help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain civil order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

"To achieve this end, we are pursuing an integrated strategy along three broad tracks, which together incorporate the efforts of the Iraqi government, the coalition, cooperative countries in the region, the international community, and the United Nations," the strategy states.

The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq is available on the White House Web site.

For additional information, see Iraq Update.

Following is the national strategy's executive summary:

(begin text)

The White House
[Washington, D.C.November 30, 2005]
Executive Summary

OUR NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR VICTORY IN IRAQ:

Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State

Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages

• Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.

• Medium term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.

• Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest

• Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror. Failure in Iraq will embolden terrorists and expand their reach; success in Iraq will deal them a decisive and crippling blow.

• The fate of the greater Middle East - which will have a profound and lasting impact on American security - hangs in the balance.

Failure is Not an Option

• Iraq would become a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against America, American interests abroad, and our allies.

• Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region - a historic opportunity lost.

• The resultant tribal and sectarian chaos would have major consequences for American security and interests in the region.

The Enemy Is Diffuse and Sophisticated

• The enemy is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida. Distinct but integrated strategies are required to defeat each element.

• Each element shares a common short-term objective - to intimidate, terrorize, and tear down - but has separate and incompatible long-term goals.

• Exploiting these differences within the enemy is a key element of our strategy.

Our Strategy for Victory is Clear

• We will help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. To achieve this end, we are pursuing an integrated strategy along three broad tracks, which together incorporate the efforts of the Iraqi government, the Coalition, cooperative countries in the region, the international community, and the United Nations.

• The Political Track involves working to forge a broadly supported national compact for democratic governance by helping the Iraqi government:

-- Isolate enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to all Iraqis that they have a stake in a democratic Iraq;

-- Engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of participation; and

-- Build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq's full integration into the international community.

• The Security Track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government:

-- Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven;

-- Hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence; and

-- Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.

• The Economic Track involves setting the foundation for a sound and self-sustaining economy by helping the Iraqi government:

-- Restore Iraq's infrastructure to meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy;

-- Reform Iraq's economy, which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future; and

-- Build the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.

This Strategy is Integrated and its Elements are Mutually Reinforcing

• Progress in each of the political, security, and economic tracks reinforces progress in the other tracks.

-- For instance, as the political process has moved forward, terrorists have become more isolated, leading to more intelligence on security threats from Iraqi citizens, which has led to better security in previously violent areas, a more stable infrastructure, the prospect of economic progress, and expanding political participation.

Victory Will Take Time

• Our strategy is working: Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam's tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of neglected infrastructure, the ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the increasing capability of those forces to take on the terrorists and secure their nation.

• Yet many challenges remain: Iraq is overcoming decades of a vicious tyranny, where governmental authority stemmed solely from fear, terror, and brutality.

-- It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power.

• Our comprehensive strategy will help Iraqis overcome remaining challenges, but defeating the multi-headed enemy in Iraq - and ensuring that it cannot threaten Iraq's democratic gains once we leave - requires persistent effort across many fronts.

Our Victory Strategy Is (and Must Be) Conditions Based

• With resolve, victory will be achieved, although not by a date certain.

-- No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.

• But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time. As conditions change, our posture will change.

-- We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.

-- While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize.

-- Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete.

(end text)
-----------------------------

Bush Says U.S. Will Keep Forces in Iraq Until Victory Achieved

Defines victory as the time when Iraqi forces can provide for their safety

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

The United States has a “flexible and dynamic” strategy for achieving victory in Iraq and will keep forces there until victory is achieved, says President Bush.

He defined victory as the time when Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens against terrorists and insurgents who threaten its path to democracy.

Speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, November 30, Bush said that the strategy is comprised of three elements – political, economic and security – and involves helping Iraqis build inclusive, democratic institutions, rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy, and develop a security force that “can take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.” (See related article.)

The enemy, he said, is a combination of ordinary citizens, mostly Sunnis who are unhappy with the loss of their dominant status under democratic change, loyalists to the former regime of Saddam Hussein who seek a return to power, and terrorists with direct or indirect ties to the terrorist group al-Qaida.

The president said he believes the first and largest group, the rejectionists, can be persuaded over time to support a democratic, federal government that is strong enough to protect minority rights. The Saddamists, he continued, lack popular support and can be marginalized and defeated.

The terrorists, he said, are foreigners coming to Iraq from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other countries, who have nothing to offer but death and chaos. “Just last week,” he noted, “they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy-giveaway outside an Iraqi hospital.”

Bush said the terrorists’ objective, as stated by their leader, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, is to drive out coalition forces and gain control of Iraq to use as a base to “overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East to try to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain.

“Against this adversary there is only one effective response: we will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory,” he said.

The president acknowledged that the administration’s strategy has not always gone smoothly, but said that it had learned from its experiences and made changes that have resulted in major progress over the past year. He spoke in particular of the successes of the Iraqi security forces, which are taking the lead in more operations and have gained control of more territory from the insurgents, noting that changes in the training and the equipment these security forces receive from coalition partners played an important role in their improved performance.

Critics, who charge that Iraq has only one battalion capable of operating completely independent of coalition forces, misunderstand the designation, the president said. Complete independence requires not only that the battalion be able to fight on its own, but that it have the ability to provide its own logistics, airlift, intelligence and command and control, he explained. “[T]here are some battalions from NATO militaries that would not be able to meet this standard,” Bush said.

The president also answered those who maintain he has no plan other than to stay on the current course.

“If by ‘stay the course’ they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they’re right. If by ‘stay the course’ they mean we will not permit al-Qaida to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban – a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America – they’re right as well. If by ‘stay the course’ they mean that we’re not learning from our experiences or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they are flat wrong.”

“America will not abandon Iraq,” he said. “We will not turn that country over to the terrorists and put the American people at risk. Iraq will be a free nation and a strong ally in the Middle East, and this will add to the security of the American people.”

The United States issued a national strategy November 30 that defines three stages for victory in Iraq, describes the enemy facing coalition and Iraqi forces, and reports on progress being made along political, economic and security fronts. The report, National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, available on the White House Web site, explains the broad strategy President Bush set forth for success in Iraq in 2003, and provides an update on progress and the challenges that remain. (See related article.)

The text of Bush's remarks
---------------------------------

U.S. General Pace Says Victory Is Only Option in Iraq

Progress must be made across political, economic, security fronts

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- There is no option in Iraq other than victory, says the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"A question that I get frequently is: Wouldn't we all just be better off if we just let them [the Iraqis] alone?" says Marine General Peter Pace.

"The answer that I give is: That would be nice if it would work, but that's not the world we live in."

Speaking at the National Defense University (NDU) at Fort McNair in Washington on December 1, Pace said some think that if the United States withdrew its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, then the problems of terrorism and associated violence would go away.

"Our enemies have said publicly on film, on the Internet their goal is to destroy our way of life. No equivocation on their part," he said.

Speaking to students attending programs at NDU, he said those who are inciting violence do so because they want all foreigners to leave the Middle East, and then they plan to overthrow all the governments there that are not friendly to their cause so that they will be able to establish a firm base from which to spread terrorism and oppression globally.

PROGRESS MUST BE MADE ON POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SECURITY FRONTS

Pace spoke a day after President Bush released a detailed, 35-page National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, and the commander-in-chief gave a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, on his strategy for winning in Iraq.

The national strategy carefully defines three stages for victory in Iraq, describes the enemy facing coalition and Iraqi forces and reports on progress being made along political, economic and security fronts. (See related article.)

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing November 29 that quitting Iraq before Iraqi forces can protect and secure their own country would add considerable security risks to the United States. "Quitting is not an exit strategy," he said. (See related article.)

Pace underscored that position, saying victory in Iraq will be achieved through steady progress across political, economic and security fronts in the short-term.

In the longer term, Pace said the Iraqis will lead in all of those categories and eventually will become a free and peaceful nation offering no hospitality to terrorists.

Iraqis have been making considerable progress on the political front, he said, noting that they are preparing for their third popular election this year, to be held on December 15. He said the Iraqis have more than 300 political parties fielding candidates for 275 seats in their parliament.
In economic terms, Pace said more than 30,000 new businesses have emerged in Iraq.

"They have an economy that's ready and capable of creating wealth for their citizens," he said.

Finally, he said security might be the toughest issue facing the Iraqis, but that security is not based on how many security forces they have.

"It's about more than just gross numbers; it's also about quality," he said.

Currently, Iraq has approximately 212,000 security forces that include personnel in the national army and those in police and security forces.

It takes time to train personnel, promote unit cohesion, develop leaders and sustain those gains, he said.

Pace said there much work remains to assist the Iraqis in developing an armed force and a police force that is fully capable.

The transcript of Pace’s remarks is available on the Internet at on the Web site of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
-------------------------------

Background news report:

Bush Presents Plan to Win Iraq War

Pelosi Says More Democrats Backing Call to Bring U.S. Troops Home Now

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 1, 2005; Page A01

President Bush laid out his administration's vision yesterday for winning the war in Iraq, acknowledging that the U.S. military has suffered "setbacks" but asserting that it is making unmistakable progress in training Iraqi security forces -- a mission he vowed will not be cut short by political pressures on the homefront.

"As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists," Bush told an audience of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. "These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington."

While Bush appealed for patience, the House minority leader announced hers was at an end. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) became the first congressional leader to endorse a call to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, following the path laid out two weeks ago by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).

Pelosi said she was offering her own view, not speaking for the Democratic caucus, but added that her conversations with colleagues suggest that "clearly a majority of the caucus supports Mr. Murtha" and his plan to immediately bring home the 160,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.

In a speech aimed at countering such opposition and bolstering what polls show is flagging enthusiasm for the war among the public, Bush described what he called a record of growing proficiency by Iraqi military and police forces, which he said will allow U.S. troops to reduce their role in day-to-day combat operations. His voice choked with emotion at times, he said an immediate withdrawal or a precise schedule for doing so would vindicate terrorists.

"To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander in chief," Bush said.

The president's speech coincided with the release of a 35-page document outlining his administration's strategy for winning the war. Administration officials said the report was compiled from declassified portions of long-standing war plans. The "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" says that the administration is working toward winning the war on three fronts: by training Iraqi security forces, by helping the nation establish a democracy, and by targeting economic development and rebuilding efforts in areas of the country cleared of insurgents.

The speech and release of the strategy document come as Bush's approval ratings have dropped to new lows and several polls show a majority of the public now regards the war as a mistake, even if most people believe the United States should secure Iraq before leaving. It was this latter group, administration officials said, that Bush especially wanted to reach, to try to convince them that there is an end in sight even if the date is uncertain.

White House aides have said that before Iraqis elect a permanent government on Dec. 15, Bush will deliver several more speeches detailing his administration's vision for winning the war. Bush warned that U.S. involvement in the war probably will not end in complete triumph. Instead, he said, U.S. troops will leave when Iraqis are prepared to assume the fight.

Several leading congressional Democrats dismissed the speech and the strategy document as warmed-over versions of Bush's rhetoric on Iraq.

"After nearly 1,000 days of war in Iraq, our troops, their families and the American people deserve more than just a Bush-Cheney public relations campaign," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "They deserve a clear strategy with military, economic and political measures to be met in order to successfully complete our mission."

Pelosi's move was the most notable. She had considered endorsing Murtha's withdrawal resolution immediately after he presented it last month. But she decided to hold back for fear that a proposal drafted by Murtha, a defense hawk from the Democratic Party's moderate wing, would quickly be tarred as the product of her more liberal wing.

At the time, an anticipated cascade of Democratic endorsements for Murtha's position did not materialize, as Democrats cautiously waited to see the proposal's impact. In the ensuing days, the Democratic leadership came under criticism from its activist base for timidity. Aides scheduled a news conference expecting Pelosi later to simply criticize the president's Iraq speech, but she announced yesterday morning she would endorse Murtha's resolution.

Tomorrow, Pelosi will join Murtha in Boston at a Democratic fundraiser. And leadership aides say that when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess, they expect that dozens more Democrats will support Murtha's proposal.

Not all Democrats were critical of Bush. Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.) said the speech was "a step in the right direction, and it begins to address the Senate's call for a successful exit strategy."

Republicans, meanwhile, were supportive, saying Bush had pointed the way to victory. "The president clearly and concisely laid out a plan for success in Iraq," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

In his remarks, Bush continued to equate the war in Iraq with the nation's larger battle against terrorism. He acknowledged that those fighting the United States are largely Iraqi, but added that the most lethal among them are foreign fighters bent on targeting Americans everywhere.

"This is an enemy without conscience, and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle," he said. "They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders."

Although he exuded a determined optimism, Bush did not express the unbridled confidence that he demonstrated when he addressed Naval Academy graduates here just over six months ago. Then, he triumphantly declared: "We are winning the war on terror."

Bush acknowledged that training Iraqi troops has proved to be painstaking, marked by success and failure as the U.S.-led coalition has had to shift its emphasis from training troops to fight an external enemy to an internal one.

Still, he said, a security force with some units that once fled from battle is making progress. He said there are more than 120 Iraqi army and police battalions with 350 to 800 men each combating the insurgency. Forty of those units, he said, are capable of taking the lead in combat operations, with U.S. support. The Iraqis are even operating a small air force and navy, he said.

Bush brushed off critics who say that only one Iraqi battalion is capable of working without any outside help. "To achieve complete independence, an Iraqi battalion must do more than fight the enemy on its own," he said. "It must also have the ability to provide its own support elements, including logistics, airlift, intelligence, and command and control through their ministries. Not every Iraqi unit has to meet this level of capability in order for the Iraqi security forces to take the lead in fighting against the enemy."

Bush cautioned that victory will require continued sacrifice. He became emotional as he read a letter left on the laptop computer of Marine Cpl. Jeff Starr, who was killed while fighting in Ramadi this year.

"If you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq," Bush read, his voice cracking. "I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, but it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so they can live the way we live."

Staff writer Jonathan Weisman contributed to this report.
-------------------------------

Op-Ed: Iraq's a Lost Cause? Ask the Real Experts

By Max Boot

The Los Angeles Times
November 23, 2005

When it comes to the future of Iraq, there is a deep disconnect between those who have firsthand knowledge of the situation — Iraqis and U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq — and those whose impressions are shaped by doomsday press coverage and the imperatives of domestic politics.

A large majority of the American public is convinced that the liberation of Iraq was a mistake, while a smaller but growing number thinks that we are losing and that we need to pull out soon. Those sentiments are echoed by finger-in-the-wind politicians, including many — such as John Kerry, Harry Reid, John Edwards, John Murtha and Bill Clinton — who supported the invasion.

Yet in a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse.

American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively. Even more impressive than the Pew poll is the evidence of how our service members are voting with their feet. Although both the Army and the Marine Corps are having trouble attracting fresh recruits — no surprise, given the state of public opinion regarding Iraq — reenlistment rates continue to exceed expectations. Veterans are expressing their confidence in the war effort by signing up to continue fighting.

Now, it could be that the Iraqi public and the U.S. armed forces are delusional. Maybe things really are on an irreversible downward slope. But before reaching such an apocalyptic conclusion, stop to consider why so many with firsthand experience have more hope than those without any.

FOR STARTERS, one can point to two successful elections this year, on Jan. 30 and Oct. 15, in which the majority of Iraqis braved insurgent threats to vote. The constitutional referendum in October was particularly significant because it marked the first wholesale engagement of Sunnis in the political process. Since then, Sunni political parties have made clear their determination to also participate in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election. This is big news. The most disaffected group in Iraq is starting to realize that it must achieve its objectives through ballots, not bullets.

There are also positive economic indicators that receive little or no coverage in the Western media. For all the insurgents' attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy, the Brookings Institution reports that per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war. Thanks primarily to the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is projected to grow at a whopping 16.8% next year. According to Brookings' Iraq index, there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five times more telephone subscribers and 32 times more Internet users.

The growth of the independent media — a prerequisite of liberal democracy — is even more inspiring. Before 2003 there was not a single independent media outlet in Iraq. Today, Brookings reports, there are 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations and more than 100 newspapers.

But aren't bombs still going off at an alarming rate? Of course. It's almost impossible to stop a few thousand fanatics who are willing to commit suicide to slaughter others.

Yet there is hope on the security front. Since the Jan. 30 election, not a single Iraqi unit has crumbled in battle, according to Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who until September was in charge of their training. Iraqi soldiers are showing impressive determination in fighting the terrorists, notwithstanding the terrible casualties they have taken. Their increasing success is evident on "Route Irish," from Baghdad International Airport. Once the most dangerous road in Iraq, it is now one of the safest. The last coalition fatality there that was a result of enemy action occurred in March.

This is not meant to suggest that everything is wonderful in Iraq. The situation remains grim in many respects. But the most disheartening indicator of all is simply the American public's loss of confidence in the war effort. Abu Musab Zarqawi may be losing on the Arab street (his own family has disowned him), but he's winning on Main Street. And, as the Vietnam War showed, defeatism on the home front can become self-fulfilling.

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