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As the pendulum swings

"As the pendulum swings" Continued...

Issue: "Minority report," Aug. 11, 2007

Donnelly acknowledges that a stable alliance depends on Iraq establishing a stable government, but he says that won't happen without help from the United States: "Security is inseparable from all these questions of internal politics." To that end, Donnelly says establishing long-term military bases in Iraq is prudent, not provocative: "Our long-term success in Iraq depends on a long-term American presence."

But many Americans don't agree, and Donnelly says the Bush administration must convince more Americans that the war is a good idea. In that effort, the administration faces an uphill battle from a Democratic Congress bent on saturating Americans with an anti-war message.

After the passage late last month of the base-related bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put it stridently: "The Democratic Congress will go on record-every day if necessary-to register a judgment to the course of action that the president is taking in Iraq." Democrats this month plan a barrage of bills ahead of the August recess aimed at pressuring more Republicans to oppose the war.

But administration officials missed an opportunity to respond with a communications barrage of their own, despite mounting reports of progress in Iraq. Those reports include several high-profile captures by the U.S. military in recent months, including Khaled al-Mashhadani, the top Iraqi member of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Officials say al-Mashhadani was also an intermediary between top al-Qaeda officials, including Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported steady progress with bolstered security efforts: The American death toll in Iraq in July was 73, the lowest in eight months.

But one of the most striking reports of progress in Iraq recently came from two staunch opponents of the war. Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institution, wrote about their recent trip to Iraq in a July 30 New York Times editorial. The pair offered a long list of significant gains in Iraq: Civilian deaths are down, volatile neighborhoods are safer, relations between U.S. soldiers and local populations are better, and the Iraqi military's performance is vastly improving.

O'Hanlon and Pollack summarized their findings by saying: "Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms."

Donnelly says those are important messages for war-weary Americans to hear: "It's not something that can be done overnight, but that doesn't mean its not worth doing."

For now, war supporters and opponents alike are waiting for September: That's when Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, is scheduled to deliver a highly anticipated report to Congress on the progress of the war and the success of the president's troop surge.

Donnelly predicts Petraeus will offer a "measured but upbeat assessment" of the war. "I think the pendulum is swinging," he says. "I just don't know how far it will swing."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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