RONALD REAGAN liked to say that there was no limit to what a man could accomplish if he didn’t mind who got the credit. The transformation of Iraq from a hellish tyranny into a functioning democracy will be recorded as a signal accomplishment of George W. Bush’s presidency, and he probably doesn’t mind in the least that the Obama administration would like to take the credit.
Over and over they were told that the war in Iraq was lost, that there was no military solution to the carnage there, and that invading Iraq had been the biggest mistake in US history. Bush’s decision in January 2007 to change strategy and “surge’’ an additional 20,000 additional troops into Iraq was scathingly denounced. Such a “fantasy-based escalation of the war,’’ wrote The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, “could only make sense in some parallel universe where pigs fly and fish commute on bicycles.’’ Senator John Kerry called the surge “a senseless decision.’’ Barack Obama, gearing up to run for president, warned that doubling down in Iraq was not “going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.’’
But the critics were wrong. The surge turned the war around, giving Iraq a new lease on life. Where Saddam once ruled a ghastly “republic of fear,’’ Iraqis live today in democratic freedom and relative peace, dispelling daily the canard that democracy and Arab culture cannot co-exist.
Of course there are no permanent guarantees, and it remains to be seen whether Iraq’s nascent democracy can sustain itself. For now, though, the news is very, very good. So good that even Vice President Joe Biden - who a few years ago was calling for Iraq to be partitioned, and who blasted Bush’s surge as “a tragic mistake’’ - now takes credit for Iraq’s rebirth.
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