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Iraq, Progress and Definitions

4:16 PM, May 24, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Yesterday, during his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, the president gave an interesting answer to this question:

Q The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, and they have been unable to bring down the violence in any substantial way in several of the provinces. So how can you expect the Iraqis to do that?

PRESIDENT BUSH: If one were to measure progress on the number of suiciders, if that's your definition of success, I think it gives -- I think it will -- I think it obscures the steady, incremental march toward democracy we're seeing. In other words, it's very difficult -- you can have the most powerful army of the world -- ask the Israelis what it's like to try to stop suiciders -- it is a difficult task to stop suicide bombers. That's the -- but that's one of the main -- that's the main weapon of the enemy, the capacity to destroy innocent life with a suicider.

And so I view progress as, is there a political process going forward that's convincing disaffected Sunnis, for example, to participate? Is there a unity government that says it's best for all of us to work together to achieve a common objective which is democracy? Are we able to meet the needs of the 12 million people that defied the car bombers? To me, that's success. Trying to stop suiciders -- which we're doing a pretty good job of on occasion -- is difficult to do. And what the Iraqis are going to have to eventually do is convince those who are conducting suiciders who are not inspired by al Qaeda, for example, to realize there's a peaceful tomorrow. And those who are being inspired by al Qaeda, we're just going to have to stay on the hunt and bring al Qaeda to justice. And our Army can do that, and is doing that right now.

President Bush is absolutely right. Substantial political progress has been made despite the violence. Though, drawing an analogy between the level and scope of violence in Tel Aviv and Baghdad, for example, is a stretch and I'm assuming not an effort to decouple the security situation in Iraq from the issue of US troop reductions. On this issue, Max Boot writes on "Securing Baghdad" (free reg. req'd) in today's Los Angeles Times and former West Point military historian Frederick Kagan offers "A Plan for Victory in Iraq" in the current Weekly Standard.