Dueling pundits

Here's Charles Krauthammer:

In fact, in May 2006 Cordesman had written that "no one can argue that the prospects for stability in Iraq are good." Now, however, there is simply no denying the remarkable improvements in Iraq since the surge began a year ago.

Unless you're a Democrat. As Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) put it, "Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq." Their Senate leader, Harry Reid, declares the war already lost. Their presidential candidates (eight of them at the time) unanimously oppose the surge. Then the evidence begins trickling in.

I was going to say something like: Wow, you'd have to be insane to disagree with Charles Krauthammer!  Well, ok, primarily because he so frequently calls those who disagree with him insane.  You see, Bush's opponents have so succumbed to Bush Derangement Syndrome that they can't admit the obvious truth.  Krauthammer concludes:

Why? Imagine the transformative effects in the region, and indeed in the entire Muslim world, of achieving a secure and stable Iraq, friendly to the United States and victorious over al-Qaeda. Are the Democrats so intent on denying George Bush retroactive vindication for a war they insist is his that they would deny their own country a now-achievable victory?

Nice complex question! But we know that that's a distraction from the real question.  Krauthammer has shifted focus from the discussion of whether the surge is working, to what psychological diagnosis characterizes those who disagree with the fact that the surge has worked.  I was going to say that I swear.  Then I read Michael Kinsley (on the same page in the Washington Post!):

It is now widely considered beyond dispute that Bush has won his gamble. The surge was a terrific success. Choose your metric: attacks on American soldiers, car bombs, civilian deaths, potholes. They're all down, down, down. Lattes sold by street vendors are up. Performances of Shakespeare by local repertory companies have tripled.

Skepticism seems like sour grapes. If you opposed the surge, you have two choices. One is to admit that you were wrong, wrong wrong. The other is to sound as if you resent all the good news and remain eager for disaster. Too many opponents of the war have chosen option two.

That's right.  All the talk about sour grapes, and the "you're only saying that because" covers up the fact that by all of the metrics offered by the surge supporters, the surge has been a failure.  Or at least, it's an open question as to whether the surge has worked.   Kinsley continues:

But we needn't quarrel about all this, or deny the reality of the good news, to say that at the very least, the surge has not worked yet. The test is simple, and built into the concept of a surge: Has it allowed us to reduce troop levels to below where they were when it started? And the answer is no.

Then he goes on to argue for that.  He arrives at the always more pressing question at the end: 

And consider how modest the administration's standard of success has become. Can there be any doubt that they would go for a reduction to 100,000 troops — and claim victory — if they had any confidence at all that the gains they brag about would hold at that level of support? The proper comparison isn't to the situation a year ago. It's to the situation before we got there. Imagine that you had been told in 2003 that when George W. Bush finished his second term, dozens of American soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis would be dying violently every month; that a major American goal would be getting the Iraqi government to temper its "debaathification" campaign so that Saddam Hussein's former henchmen could start running things again (because they know how); and that "only" 100,000 American troops would be needed to sustain this equilibrium.

You might have several words to describe this situation, but "success" would not be one of them.

And it would be important not to forget that.