Dan Froomkin got it right in yesterday’s WaPo column:
On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush today attempted to recast it as a great success for the United States and a major blow to Osama bin Laden. But for the American people to go along with his construction will require a pretty severe case of amnesia.
The security situation in Iraq is undeniably somewhat better than it was a year ago, before Bush increased the number of American troops there to more than 160,000. But the violence nevertheless continues at an appalling level. And the political reconciliation the “surge” was intended to bring about remains a distant fantasy.
The supposed victory against bin Laden that Bush is celebrating is belied by the fact that al-Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq before the invasion, that its Iraqi namesake is a mostly home-grown version with limited ties to bin Laden’s organization, that the administration’s own intelligence has concluded that the war has helped rather than hurt al-Qaeda — and that bin Laden himself likely remains safely ensconced in Pakistan.
Looking at Iraq and seeing progress requires not looking back beyond the past 12 months or so. And even on that basis, it’s hard to argue that the events of the past year have put us any closer to getting out. Furthermore, Bush’s decision to arm anti-government Sunni militias may lead to even greater chaos when we do leave.
The only way the surge has been an unqualified success is one that Bush didn’t mention today: It has bought him time.