Friday, August 31, 2007

Michael Gerson, Speechwriter Turned Strategist

A Season of Hope in Iraq
By Michael Gerson Friday, August 31, 2007; A15
The season now ending with school bells and the return of Congress was supposed to be the "Iraq Summer." A coalition of antiwar groups promised 10 weeks of phone banks, billboards, petitions and protests targeted at 40 Republican members of Congress who support the war. "It's going to be like laying asphalt in August -- hot," boasted one organizer.
By this standard, August has been remarkably mild. It brings to mind a couplet by the poet Richard Wilbur: "What is the opposite of riot? It's lots of people keeping quiet."
During their summer vacation, Americans discovered that Gen. David Petraeus doesn't take one. And his energy and urgency have shifted the Iraq debate in some fundamental ways.
A few months ago, it was the received wisdom that Iraq was in the midst of a rapidly escalating civil war. That claim is no longer plausible.
While the level of violence is still unacceptably high, the surge has disrupted the cycle of escalation and proved that progress is possible. Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno's briefing this month was an antidote to pessimism. "Total attacks," he said, "are at their lowest levels since August of 2006." Some of the most violent and lawless regions of Iraq, such as Anbar and Diyala, have been stabilized with the cooperation of local Sunni leaders who have turned against al-Qaeda thuggery. Insurgents are being pushed out of population centers and then targeted in further operations. Sectarian murders in Baghdad have gone down by more than 50 percent in a few months, reaching their lowest levels since the Samarra mosque bombing. And new sectarian provocations -- such as the al-Qaeda bombings in Nineveh -- have not resulted in the usual spiral of revenge murders.
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It's always a problem when you take a writer of speeches and turn him into what he is not--a strategist, maker of policy and military critic.
Gerson sees what he has been trained to see, like Pavlov's dog; turned against al-Qaeda thuggery, al-Qaeda bombings in Nineveh. Concentrate Michael. It's not all al-Qaeda. Various militias and warlords in Iraq are acting to preserve their personal best interests.
It is a war, Michael, that you have not the least understanding of. The Washington Post gave you a column,, apparently not understanding that you are a speech-writer. You take what someone else tells you and make it sound good. If it doesn't sound good enough, they make you do it again.
Somehow the Post failed to realize that doesn't give you a valid opinion. Their mistake.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Iraq War, check out Opinion-Columns.com