What happened
President Bush is acknowledging the high cost of the war in Iraq in a speech to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion, but he plans to hail progress since last year’s surge of U.S. troops as signs of a potential “major strategic victory” against Islamic extremists. (Reuters)

What the commentators said
“In the past five years, the passion has drained out of the war's defenders and critics alike,” said Fouad Ajami in The Wall Street Journal. Our soldiers are still there, “but the public at home has moved onto other concerns.” Americans have “no taste” for the burdens of empire, but know the stakes are too high to let “mayhem and petty tyrants” reign in the vital Persian Gulf region. “The public is willing to grant this expedition time, and that's for the good.”

What’s good about dragging out a war that “should never have been fought”? said Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald. “There were no weapons of mass destruction,” no link to 9/11, and, “worse, Iraq has become a recruiting station for Islamic terrorists.” What’s done is done, but “we should at the very least learn from this, commit it to communal memory, so that maybe next time a fear-mongering leader tries to stampede us into precipitate and unwise action, we will have the guts to stop and reason and” refuse to go.

The question, after a half-decade of war, is, “where will you be five years from now?” said the Cincinnati Enquirer in an editorial. We’re learning from our success, and have finally hit on a counterinsurgency strategy that could hold the key to long-term success. But “Americans need to hear again, or perhaps for the first time clearly, what ultimate success in Iraq looks like.” After five years, we “deserve to know what the goal is and how far we are from reaching it.”