Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Longer Time Frame for Iraq

Michael Barone over at U.S. News suggests that it's best to look at progress in Iraq through a macro-historical time frame:

When my father returned from service as an Army doctor in Korea in 1953, he brought back slides of the photos he'd shot, showing a war-torn country of incredible poverty. We would have laughed if you had told us that Americans would one day buy Korean cars. But 50-some years later, South Korea has the 13th-largest economy in the world, and you see Hyundais and Kias everywhere in America. Looking at things in microtime frames is not always a reliable guide to the macrotime-frame future.

So it may turn out to be with Iraq. We have been looking at Iraq in microtime frames—or, for many who oppose the war, frozen in the time frame of late 2006. A better picture of the microtime frame is that we have achieved considerable success this year. "The trend toward better security is indisputable," writes the Associated Press. U.S. military and civilian deaths have declined sharply. Anbar province is pacified, Iraqis are streaming back to Baghdad, and al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. Time's Joe Klein, a critic of the administration, admits the gains and advises Democrats not to try to cut off funds. Conservative columnist Tony Blankley claims "a very real expectation that next year the world may see a genuine, old-fashioned victory in the Iraq war."

American media are presenting less reporting from Iraq, partly because some in the media believe that good news in Iraq is not news. Some Democratic congressional leaders still maintain that the surge strategy has made no difference, and they seek a vote on troop withdrawal. But Democratic presidential candidates, more closely attuned perhaps to changes in events and opinion, are talking less about withdrawing from Iraq and more about what we should do (or should not do) about Iran.
Here's Barone's key point:

Let's look, however, not just at the microtime frame but the macrotime frame. Yes, violence could re-escalate, as Klein predicts. But within sight is a far more hopeful trajectory. In the long run of history, our involvement in Iraq is starting to look less like a descent into a hopeless quagmire and a more unstable Middle East.
Read the whole thing. Barone uses the Korea example to suggest that it's too early to render history's judgment on Iraq or the Bush administration.

See also my post, "Victory in Iraq? The War Has Been Won."