Troop morale is high. The soldiers have confidence in their leader's strategy. They're living in harmony with the people, tailoring their operations to the specific needs of each community, and making a real difference. The people are optimistic, and different sects are coming together against extremists and violence. Local leaders are cooperating towards economic revitalization and development, with fresh strategies and renewed vigor. And all the people are coming together to cheer on their favorite, continent-dominating sports team.
Nonsense, you say. This couldn't possibly be the same Iraq we've been hearing about every day in the media since this war began. It must be some sort of fairy-tale. The Iraq we know is a chaotic, violent place, full of angry warring factions and hatred for America and our miserable, failing U.S. troops. There's no hope for the Iraq we know. This just couldn't be the same place.
Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack are getting similar responses to their article in today's New York Times, titled "A War We Just Might Win." Although Pollack and O'Hanlon describe themselves as "two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq,” their new article arouses criticism of Republican partisanship as well as questions of sanity from many who are eager to recount the albeit grave costs of the war and ignore any progress being made. But is the cry of "withdrawal" so strong that it's drowning out evidence of the troop surge's success?
At EPIC, we're interested in the truth regardless of the politics. Democrat vs. Republican squabbles don't influence our perspective. We're only interested in reality, and finding real solutions for the people of Iraq.
So why do we believe O'Hanlon and Pollack's rather rosy assessment of the situation? Because regardless of where these two men might come from, it's exactly the same thing we've been hearing from the Iraqis, themselves, and others in the NGO community who have nothing to gain from supporting the Bush administration.
The peacebuilders we've interviewed have all stressed the importance of community-based solutions for Iraq, and O'Hanlon and Pollack describe that happening with the new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Our sources say Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds often overcome their differences and come together for common goals, and O'Hanlon and Pollack confirm that as well -- as does the championship-holding Iraqi soccer team.
These guys don't claim we haven't a long way to go. O'Hanlon and Pollack stress that "the dependability of Iraqi security forces over the long term remains a major question mark," and that "more must be done" in terms of economic development and security building. They acknowledge the reality that people are still dying. But the point is, progress is possible, hope is justified, and we can't afford to overlook successes for the sake of political posturing.