In his August 24 nationally syndicated column, Charles Krauthammer wrote: "When the Democratic presidential front-runner concedes that the surge 'is working' (albeit very late) against the insurgency ... the terms of the Iraq debate become narrow and the policy question simple: What do we do right now -- continue the surge or cut it short and begin withdrawal?" Krauthammer appeared to be referring to comments by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) during an August 20 speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) national convention. In fact, Clinton did not say in her speech that President Bush's troop increase in Iraq "is working," as Media Matters for America has noted. Instead, Clinton linked the improvements in Iraq's Al Anbar Province to new "tactics," not Bush's troop escalation.
According to an August 21 New York Times article, Clinton told the VFW: "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working. ... We're just years too late changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again." The Times also reported that "[a]ides to Mrs. Clinton said her remarks that military tactics in Iraq are 'working' referred specifically to reports of increased cooperation from Sunnis leading to greater success against insurgents in Al Anbar Province." And according to an April 29 Times article on improvements in Al Anbar, the progress there "began last September" -- months before Bush announced his plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.
Furthermore, Clinton's statement to the VFW that the new "tactics" being employed in Al Anbar Province are "working" is not new. An August 23 New York Daily News article on the VFW speech reported that she made similar comments in March: "Camp Clinton insisted she was talking only about a limited improvement in Anbar, linked to better relations with tribal leaders -- a claim she made to the Daily News in March." Clinton was also quoted in a May 7 New York Observer article saying, "We are making some progress it turns out, in what is called Al Anbar province against al Qaeda, and the reason we are is that our military leaders have learned a lot in the last several years there and they have made common cause with some of the tribal leaders."
From Krauthammer's August 24 column:
As critics acknowledge military improvement, the administration is finally beginning to concede the political reality that the Maliki government is hopeless. Bush's own national security adviser had said as much in a leaked memo back in November. I and others have been arguing that for months. And when [Sen. Carl] Levin [D-MI] returned and openly called for the Iraqi parliament to vote out the Maliki government, the president pointedly refused to contradict him.
This convergence about the actual situation in Baghdad will take some of the drama out the highly anticipated Petraeus moment next month. We know what the general and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are going to say when they testify before Congress because multiple sources have already told us what is happening on the ground.
There will, of course, be the Harry Reids and those on the far left who will deny inconvenient reality. Reid will continue to call the surge a failure, as he has since even before it began. And the left will continue to portray Gen. David Petraeus as an unscrupulous commander quite prepared to send his troops into a hopeless battle in order to advance his political ambitions (although exactly how that works is not clear).
But the serious voices will prevail. When the Democratic presidential front-runner concedes that the surge "is working" (albeit very late) against the insurgency, and when Petraeus himself concedes that the surge cannot continue indefinitely, making inevitable a drawdown of troops sometime in the middle of next year, the terms of the Iraq debate become narrow and the policy question simple: What do we do right now -- continue the surge or cut it short and begin withdrawal?