Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

YEAH AHEAD -- IRAQ; Dare to Succeed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

YEAH AHEAD -- IRAQ; Dare to Succeed

Article excerpt

It appears Gen. David Petraeus knew what he was doing.

The surge in Iraq brought U.S. troops out of their protected areas, built alliances, respected local culture and ended the bungling that marked earlier strategies.

Examples of success:

- U.S. troop deaths dropped from 123 last May to 37 in November, The Wall Street Journal reported.

- Civilian deaths were down by more than 60 percent from July to November, reported U.S. News & World Report.

- A November poll from the Pew Center noted that Americans who believe the war is going well jumped from 30 percent in February to 48 percent.

However temporary this may be, "it is an extraordinary change," The Economist magazine notes.

Now the question is: Where do we go from here?

NO SIMPLICITIES

Most Americans would like to get out of Iraq, but not so quickly that it spirals into regional violence.

There is a subtle combination of opinions about Iraq that were well expressed by Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a professor at West Point who led a mechanized division in the first Gulf War.

"The American people have lost faith in this war," he wrote in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal, while at the same time, "there is now a sense of momentum and advantage among our soldiers and our Iraqi allies on the streets of Iraq."

He wrote that it may take two years before we know whether this will work.

In an interview with columnist Trudy Rubin, Petraeus said, "We have done considerable damage to al-Qaida in Iraq."

And yet, "Tenuous is the right word to describe the situation, and you won't find any military commanders doing victory dances in the end zone. We are all guarded in our assessments, with a great deal of wariness about what might be."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that progress is real, but fragile.

And there may need to be frequent adjustments in tactics as the situation changes in this country riven by various ethnic and religious disputes.

POLITICAL GOALS ARE KEY

While security is necessary before the Iraqi economy can be revived, political disputes need to be addressed. …

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