In a wider sense, the war is as most wars: an evolution from blunders to wisdom, the side that makes the fewest and learns from them the most eventually winning. Al Qaeda and the insurgents in 2004-6 developed the means, both tactical and strategic, to thwart the reconstruction, but we, not they, have since learned the more and evolved.
As in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII, the present American military – which has committed far less mistakes than past American forces – has shifted tactics, redefined strategy, and found the right field commanders. We forget that the U.S. Army and Marines, far from being broken, now have the most experienced and wizened officers in the world. Like Summer 1864, Summer 1918, and in the Pacific 1944-5, the key is the support of a weary public for an ever improving military that must nevertheless endure a final storm before breaking the enemy.
The irony is that should President Bush endure the hysteria and furor and prove able to give the gifted Gen. Petraeus the necessary time – and I think he will – his presidency could still turn out to be Trumanesque, once we digest the changes in Europe, the progress on North Korea, the end of both the Taliban and Saddam, and the prevention of another 9/11 attack. How odd that all the insider advice to triangulate – big spending, new programs, uninspired appointments, liberal immigration reform – have nearly wrecked the administration, and what were once considered its liabilities – foreign policy, the war on terror and Iraq – may still save it.