Street battles continued between Shiite Muslim militias and Iraqi and American soldiers in Baghdad, as Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker arrived in Washington to give Congress their latest appraisal of the Iraq war. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
“With recent pitched battles dividing Iraq's two biggest cities and daily bombardments killing U.S. troops and diplomats in Baghdad,” said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial (free registration), Petraeus “faces a difficult task convincing congressional skeptics that his year-old troop surge is working as planned.” Petraeus and Crocker will almost surely ask for a pause in the drawdown of American troops to pre-surge levels, but they’ll have to provide a convincing answer when asked how that will help Iraq’s sectarian leaders resolve their differences, when nothing else has.
Last year’s surge was one of “the most important counteroffensives in U.S. military annals,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. It’s now clear that we “can no longer be defeated militarily in Iraq”—something that couldn’t be said before. “The question now is whether Washington will squander these gains by withdrawing so quickly that we could still lose politically.”
“The original mission was to buy time for reconciliation,” said H.D.S. Greenway in The Boston Globe (free registration). “But there has been virtually none, and none is in sight.” Now the “Ryan Crocker-David Petraeus show” is back before Congress to buy time again, but this time the only thing they can hope to gain is to keep the violence from rising again too quickly, to help the hawkish John McCain win the presidency.
Every time we make progress in Iraq the war’s critics “move the goalposts,” said Rich Lowry in the New York Post (free registration). “The last time Gen. David Petraeus came to Washington, he heralded tentative but widely discounted security gains. Now he brings news of tentative but widely discounted political progress.” As we tick off one benchmark for success after another, “neutralizing militias” and getting the Iraqi government on its feet, “opponents of the war will surely move on to something else—probably the war's cost.”