The US public and policymakers need to recognize how this happened – and draw lessons from this success.
1) We need to acknowledge that the Iraq war wasn’t a “distraction” from the War on Terror, as critics still complain, but its centerpiece.
It’s not mere coincidence that our success against al Qaeda globally comes along with success in Iraq. For all its setbacks and frustrations, the Iraq war drew jihadists into a battle they thought they could win, because it would be fought on their home turf – but which they’re now losing disastrously.
2) The US decision to “stay the course” in the Iraq war, which was also widely mocked and criticized, served to thoroughly demoralize the jihadist movement.
From its start in spring 2003, the Iraqi insurgency has been entirely built on the premise that it could use suicide and roadside bombings, sectarian slaughter and the torture and murder of hostages to force America out of the Middle East.
If Democrats had won the White House in 2004, the jihadists might have succeeded.
Instead, America doggedly refused to give in to terror, despite 4,000 combat deaths and massive antiwar sentiment, and unwaveringly supported an Iraqi government that was at times feeble and confused – and proceeded to break the jihadist movement’s back.
Obama’s greatest defect is his refusal to understand the war and our accelerating successes across its many fronts. Obama’s election would signal the jihadists that they had hope of an American retreat. McCain’s victory will signal that the defeats they had suffered over the past two years would continue.
The stakes could not be higher. Senator McCain will be pushed by MSM to talk about everything except the war, and while he will indeed have to do so again and again (he’s giving a speech today on the economy), he must refocus the debate over and over again on the war and the “tipping point” we are approaching.
Scott Johnson relays that Obama will raise $100 million in June –an amount that reflects the anti-war movement’s deep commitment to retreat, the left’s hatred of Bush, the energy of the African-American community and youth vote and the war-weariness of the public. Obama will outraise and outspend McCain, but McCain’s central message will be two questions that the vast majority of Americans will answer correctly: Do you want to win the war or lose it? Shall the enormous sacrifices made by America’s military and their families be for the high purpose of extending freedom to others while protecting our country, or will they be gambled away on wishes and rhetoric?
UPDATE: See also Kimberly Kagan’s and Frederick Kagan’s “How Prime Minister Maliki Pacified Iraq” in today’s WSJ.com