I agree with my good friend Michelle Malkin that the American infusion of troops into Iraq, well known as "the surge," was The Story of 2007. Certainly not the Virginia Tech massacre, and not the Barry Bonds steroid scandal, as MSM organizations maintain.
And I agree with William Kristol of the Weekly Standard that Gen. David Petraeus is the Man of the Year--not Vladimir Putin as determined by Time magazine.
That doesn't mean, of course, that The Story of the Year has an ending, or that The Man of the Year's hour is over.
Clearly, what happens next in and around Iraq will be the story of 2008 just as much---and in a way more so--than the selection of the next president.
I just reread my own columns discussing the surge to reconsider my perceptions and reservations, and see how they have fared as events have unfolded.
The first surge column dates back to December 2006. Assuming the surge's tactical success, my question for the future was:
"Looking back on, lo, our many costly years of liberation and occupation in Iraq, what would it turn out that we had actually won? In other words, what, in this best-case scenario [of surge success], is `victory' supposed to look like?"
At that time, President Bush was saying things like, "Success in Iraq will be success." (That's a real quote.) And the then-new Defense Secretary Robert Gates was telling us, "Failure would be a calamity."
While I guess I still agree with both statements, we certainly needed more discussion about what an American victory was supposed to look like. One year later, we still do.
To be fair, the president did get more specific at the time, discussing the endgame of the surge being "a stable government in Iraq that can defend, govern and sustain itself."
I can see how that is in the interest of people in Iraq; but should the establishment of such a government continue to be main thrust of US foreign policy? In other words, is the establishment of such a government an overriding policy interest of the United States? I don't think so.
Why? A year ago, my biggest question as the surge was poised to begin was:
"What happens if [the surge] actually manages to secure Iraq, which then emerges as a natural ally of Iran and perhaps Syria? Will we salute U.S. efforts that brought into the (Islamic) world another Shi'ite-dominated, pro-Hezbollah, anti-American, anti-Israel Shariah state with lots of oil?" Even if such a government were defendable, governable and sustainable, it would hardly count as a bonafide American success.
One year later, have we established such a state?
In one sense, this question is hard answer because even though the American military has more or less accomplished its security goals for Iraq, Iraq is not yet functioning as an independent state. To be sure, it is Shi'ite dominated (obviously) and thus receptive/subject to Iranian influence; to be sure, it is pro-Hezbollah (as we know from actions and statements by both its parliament and prime minister during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War); to be sure, it is anti-Israel, which we can tell by its increasing participation in the Arab League boycott of the Jewish state. Given such indicators, it remains hard to imagine Iraq evolving in a pro-American direction.
But the fate of Iraq itself is increasingly beside the point, at least as far as US interests go. And here's why, from a September 2007 column: "Our gargantuan efforts to build an Iraqi society that never before existed do nothing whatsoever to ward off jihadist state threats--Iran, for instance--in the wider region." In other words, bleeding ourselves dry to establish an Iraqi reconciliation or Iraqi federalism doesn't do a thing to help preserve the United States against the threat of jihad terror coming out of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabi and elsewhere, along with the creeping Islamization of the Western world.
So, yes, Gen. Petraeus' execution of the surge is the most important development of this past year. I still wish I were more confident about the long-term strategy.