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"And Bush was right."

10:53 AM, Sep 27, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Magnanimous praise and shrewd advice from an unlikely source:

President Bush made a courageous decision in the summer of 2006 to reverse direction, but not the reversal sought by Congress (including then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden), the American public, the overwhelming majority of the press (including this newspaper), and even most of his own military advisers. Instead of cutting our losses and pulling out of Iraq, as we did in Vietnam, Bush doubled down. He invested more troops and, more important, embraced an entirely new strategy.

And Bush was right. What had happened beneath all of the politics was a small revolution in war-fighting philosophy, championed and implemented by an unlikely military leader, Gen. David Petraeus, a soldier/intellectual molded as much by the think tank as the battlefield. He calls the movement his "Counterinsurgency Nation," and it has rewritten the way America fights. It is not a completely new idea - there are few of those in the study of war - but its basic principles came into clearer and clearer focus as a new generation of military officers fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its guiding principle is simple: The prize in these countries is not territory, but people....

The Iraq war is not over, of course. It remains to be seen if Iraqis can forge a nation from its various contending factions, but there is no denying the extraordinary reversal engineered by Bush, Petraeus, and the remarkable soldiers who have risked and all too often sacrificed life and limb for the last six years. They accomplished it amid a persistent chorus of critics and doomsayers - doomed was actually the word then-Sen. Biden used to describe Petraeus' chances in April 2006....

Obama's war-fighting promise was to scale down Iraq and ramp up Afghanistan, which he argued was the necessary war. He has the strategy and the men to do just that, thanks in large part to the man who is least likely to be given credit, George W. Bush.

That's Mark Bowden writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Read the whole thing here.