From Around the Country

Progress in Iraq

U.S. troop strength in Iraq only recently reached the level envisioned by President Bush's surge strategy, so it is too early to judge its chance of success. However, if this weekend's wave of violence is a prelude to progress, Americans must shudder to think what impending failure would look like.

Over the weekend, suicide bombers and other insurgents killed 220 Iraqis. The attacks demonstrated the inability of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers to ensure widespread, uniform security and the insurgents' ability to seek out vulnerable targets in unsecured areas.

The weekend attacks corresponded to a prediction by the U.S. commander in Iraq, David Petraeus. He said Sunni insurgents would try to "pull off a variety of sensational attacks and grab the headlines to create a mini-Tet." While the Viet Cong's Tet offensive in 1968 failed militarily, it succeeded in its goal of persuading many Americans that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable.

Petraeus notes accurately that political and military progress in Iraq must accompany and will bolster one another. However, the apparent paralysis of the Iraqi government, combined with the surge in violent attacks, is having the opposite effect.

Several prominent Republican senators have called for a change of strategy one leading to the withdrawal or repositioning of U.S. troops in Iraq. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled his departure on a tour of four Latin American nations and will remain in Washington to meet on Iraq.

One of the bright spots in Iraq, the relative calm of Iraqi Kurdistan, is endangered by Turkish threats to attack radical Kurdish rebels who take refuge in Iraq after attacks in Turkey.

Voicing frustration at the inability of Iraqi forces to secure areas temporarily pacified by U.S. troops, several Iraqi politicians called on the civilian populace to arm itself in self-defense. Without widespread security maintained by Iraq forces, this sounds like a prescription for continued civil conflict and another reason to doubt whether the surge in U.S. troops will pay lasting dividends.

—Houston Chronicle