Since WORLD often criticizes The New York Times for only reporting all the news that fits its presuppositions, let us now praise its printing of an extraordinary turnaround concerning the Iraq War.
Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack are Brookings Institution analysts who self-describe themselves as critics of "the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq." In previous trips to Iraq they have reported that U.S. troops "sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work."
So their latest assessment-and the Times op-ed page's printing of it-is significant. They wrote on July 30 that "we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms . . . we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with."
For those of us who don't like the current storm but like even less the prospect of a hurricane if U.S. troops pull out immediately, the analysts' pragmatic conclusion is important: "There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."
The war all along has been a hard effort to assess. WORLD reluctantly supported it in 2003 because Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer of his own people who blustered about becoming a mega-mass murderer of Americans. In defense of both innocent Iraqis and ourselves it was good for him to be deposed-but how good, and at what cost?
The cost has been higher than we and many others hoped, and that in retrospect makes a "just war" defense more difficult. Having "just cause" (using force to correct or forestall evils even greater than war) is important. So is having "probability of success," not using force in futile ways or to destroy more than is saved-and the key policy question now is not what has happened over the past four years but what is likely to happen over the next four.
If O'Hanlon and Pollack are right, it seems just for the United States to push on for a sustainable stability that could keep Iraq from suffering millions of new deaths. Do we have a "probability of success"? That's hard to say, but even the reasonable possibility should lead journalists to suspend this year's drumbeat of hopelessness. Of course, O'Hanlon and Pollack were writing on the Times op-ed page, and we'll have to see whether their analysis has any effect on its news pages and on almost all the major networks.