If you asked Sen. Barack Obama two years ago for a strategy for
Iraq, he would have recommended withdrawing all troops. The New
York Times and other liberal news outlets would have said
that Iraq was on verge of an inevitable civil war and a stunning
U.S. defeat. Yet President Bush went with his "surge" strategy and
wisely chose Gen. David Petraeus to lead it.
The surge has been a resounding success, and liberals are
scrambling to explain the dramatic reduction in violence in
Last week at The Heritage Foundation, Petraeus spoke of this
success and warned of "storm clouds" that remain for continued
democracy in Iraq. The political situation in Iraq "does remain
reversible," he said. Our military needs to complete the job and
help the "fragile" government to establish a constitutional
democracy, free from sectarian violence and insurgency.
Under-reported successes by Petraeus and the troops include:
- Of 167 Iraqi Army Combat Battalions, 116 are now "in the lead"
on operations and have taken over from coalition leadership.
- The detainee re-arrest rate is down to 1%, compared to 10% two
- The "bulk of [Muqtada al-Sadr's] militia has turned into a
social services movement" after losing public support.
Despite the success, Petraeus warned that challenges remain, as
al-Qaeda and other extremists attempt to revive their operational
capabilities. Other challenges include integrating the Sons of Iraq
into the government, meeting political expectations and providing
services to Iraqi citizens, and the potential destabilizing
influence of Iran.
Petraeus also acknowledged "Afghanistan will be the longest
campaign of the Long War." Fortunately, he will take over as
Commander of the U.S. Central Command, which will allow him to
oversee American efforts in Afghanistan. He emphasized that "some
of the concepts used in Iraq are transplantable" but "every
situation in counterinsurgency is unique."
Americans are lucky to have such a leader. The next president and
Congress should listen carefully to his assessments.
If Barack Obama is elected president, there will be an open Senate
seat from Illinois and one from Delaware. Who would replace Obama?
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill) can appoint a replacement, and he can
pick from two of the more well-known members of the House of
Representatives: Rahm Emanuel, the fourth ranking House Democrat
(and presumed engineer of the 2006 Democrat takeover), and Jesse
Jackson, Jr. Both are considered far left of center. The American
Conservative Union gives Jackson a lifetime conservative rating of
3.07%, with Emanuel a bit higher at 13.09%. Considering that the
non-partisan National Journal ranked Obama is the most liberal
member of the Senate, either would essentially offer more of the
The Delaware appointment will be made by the new governor. The
race between Democrat state Treasurer Jack Markell and Republican
former state judge Bill Lee currently is in the "leans Democrat"
category. Democrats who would most likely to take the seat are
Biden's son, Attorney General Beau Biden, or retiring Gov. Ruth Ann
If John McCain is elected, what would happen in Arizona? Gov.
Janet Napolitano is a Democrat, but Arizona mandates that any
Senate replacement must be from the same party of the retiring
members. Presumably, Napolitano wouldn't choose from House members
John Shadegg, Trent Franks or Jeff Flake unless one of those
members lose their race and would appear vulnerable in a special
election in 2010.
President Obama or President McCain will have to decide what to do
with the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and the judges they appoint
to the federal bench will be very important in those decisions. The
seriousness of this issue was brought into focus by the recent
order of Federal Judge Ricardo Urbina to release 17 Chinese Muslims
held in Gitmo as enemy combatants into the United States. This may
be the first of many judge-ordered releases of prisoners held in
Gitmo to a zip code near you.
The predictable effect of the Boumediene Supreme Court decision
this past June is that judges will believe that they have the power
to release these foreign terrorists held in Gitmo into the general
population of the United States. This decision, which has been
placed on hold by the DC Circuit, is the first to actually do it.
McCain denounced the decision.
is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage