Saturday, February 16, 2008

About Those Benchmarks...

Fred Barnes focuses in Iraqi political progress over at the Weekly Standard:

A year ago, when neither the war nor political reconciliation was going well, the Bush administration reluctantly agreed to 18 benchmarks for judging progress in Iraq. And the Democratic Congress eagerly wrote the benchmarks into law, also requiring the administration to report back in July and September on whether the benchmarks were being met.

Despite the surge of additional American troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy, the reports found little progress on the political benchmarks requiring tangible steps toward reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis. Democrats insisted this meant the surge had failed.

They had a point, but not anymore. The surge, by quelling violence and providing security, was supposed to produce "breathing space" in which reconciliation could take place. Now it has, not because President Bush says so, but based on those same benchmarks that Democrats once claimed were measures of failure in Iraq.

Last week, the Iraqi parliament passed three laws that amounted to a political surge to achieve reconciliation. Taken together, the laws are likely to bring minority Sunnis fully into the political process they had earlier boycotted and to produce a new class of political leaders....

When the second benchmarks report was released last September, Democrats jumped on it. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the report "shows the president's flawed escalation policy is not working." According to Democratic senator Joe Biden of Delaware, "all it does is point out the failure." Democratic senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said the Iraqi government "is not making progress .  .  . with respect to these benchmarks."

Now, the facts on the ground have changed dramatically, and so has progress on the benchmarks. Will Democrats acknowledge this? Or will they continue to claim the surge has failed and demand rapid withdrawal of our troops? So far, Democrats have reacted with silence.
It's not just the Democrats.

Neo-Neocon argues that the major media are shortchanging the story as well:

The Iraqi Parliament has passed some new and potentially significant laws.

This particular event should have been the lead article on the front page of every newspaper. It should have been the big subject of all the talk shows. It ought to have been acknowledged by every critic of the surge—you know, the ones who initially said the surge wouldn’t work before it even began. The ones who then said Petraeus was lying about the drop in casualties. The ones who then said that it didn’t mean anything anyway because after all, the Iraqi legislature hadn’t met the proper benchmarks that would indicate political progress and reconciliation.
This is some of the biggest news on the media and national security politics to come out since David Petraeus was overlooked as "Man of the Year" in late-2007.

But the left-wing forces won't touch it.

Clearly the Democratic congressional majority, throughout 2007, was bested by the administration on war strategy. Now
the antiwar base is up in arms over the Pelosi-Reid "capitulation" to the administration's "surge" in Iraq.

Iraq will be a big issue next November, despite the left-wing establishment's best efforts to avoid it.