Fred Hiatt certainly isn’t the only person in Washington looking to rehabilitate his reputation by rehabilitating the Iraq war’s. But he is the only such person who is also the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, which is how we end up with editorials that seem to have been transmitted from a mirror universe:
Simply put, the situation in Iraq has been transformed in the past two years, and voters recognize it. While 63 percent said in a November 2006 poll reported in Newsweek that the United States was “losing ground” in Iraq, 53 percent said in a New York Times-CBS poll last week that the war was going “somewhat well” or “very well.”
The irony is that the reversal of fortunes came about after President Bush ignored the message from 2006 voters and the Democratic congressional majority they elected. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, Mr. Bush launched the “surge” for which Republican John McCain had been pressing. Yet the biggest beneficiary of its success is not Mr. Bush, whose popularity is as low as ever, or Mr. McCain, but Democrat Barack Obama. Mr. Obama gained traction early in the Democratic primary campaign by stressing his opposition to the war and support for a 16-month withdrawal timetable. By the time his general election competition with Mr. McCain began, Iraq had faded as an issue. Mr. Obama’s withdrawal proposal, which would have triggered a catastrophe in 2007 and still looked irresponsible a few months ago, now does not sound that different from what the Iraqi government and the Bush administration have lately been negotiating.[…]
But today is not the day for detailed policy advice. Suffice it instead today to be grateful that the president-elect will inherit a war that has gone from the brink of disaster to a path toward success.
By any definition, what happened in Iraq in 2007 was a catastrophe. The Iraq war has been a catastrophe. I don’t think it’s unfair to argue that the surge helped avert an even worse catastrophe. I’m not entirely convinced of this, but it’s not an unfair argument. It is, however, an argument that dwells now and forever in the realm of conjecture, whereas the actual catastrophe that did occur in Iraq between 2003 and 2007 dwells in the realm of fact.
It seems odd, to say the least, that Hiatt can praise voters with recognizing that the situation in Iraq has gotten better, but then scold them for not properly crediting this to supporters of the surge. Most Americans recognize that the war has been a huge, costly and counterproductive disaster, and I think it’s probably the case that they recognize that many of those supporting the surge were also those most responsible for selling them the war, and thus aren’t willing to forgive and forget the way that Hiatt seems to feel that they should.
As for being “grateful” that we are on “a path toward success,” I’ll just tell Hiatt what I told Peter Wehner.