6:41 PM, Mar 19, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
It's true that the Awakening in Anbar represented the first time that Muslims violently rejected the totalitarian ideology of al Qaeda. One can debate endlessly whether the success of the surge created room for the Awakening or whether the success of the Awakening created room for the surge, but the result is the same. And we have routed al Qaeda from most of the country--the final blow is likely to come soon in Mosul.
The Israeli experience of the last few years offers a real lesson here. They pulled out of Lebanon--unilaterally and not out of military necessity--and Hezbollah claimed victory. More than that, Hezbollah became the vanguard of global jihad. Likewise in Gaza. The Israelis withdrew--unilaterally and not out of military necessity--and Hamas claimed victory. More than that, they overthrew Fatah and radicalized the Palestinian population (really, they are more radical).
If we pull out of Iraq, al Qaeda will claim victory--that much is certain. It will also grow stronger--who would stop it? This is an intolerable outcome. Five years after the initial invasion, nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have died, thousands more have been injured, and much work remains to be done. But it is foolish to think that things couldn't get worse if U.S. troops were to leave, and there is every reason to believe that U.S. troops are finally on the path to victory.