May 30, 2008

The turning tide

By: Sonny Bunch

I asked for more on Al Qaeda in Iraq being on the run, and Pete Wehner delivers over at Contentions, highlighting a WaPo interview with CIA director Michael Hayden. He had this to say:

“On balance, we are doing pretty well,” he said, ticking down a list of accomplishments: “Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally — and here I’m going to use the word ‘ideologically’ — as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam,” he said.

Now, the CIA hasn’t exactly been a group of cheerleaders for the administration, so to see its chief saying things are looking markedly up is welcome news. The entire interview is well worth reading, as is Wehner’s post. And it might be time to rethink the CW on Bush’s legacy. As Wehner writes:

It was also said by many analysts that as a result of the President’s misguided policies, al Qaeda was growing more popular, terrorist recruitment was up, al Qaeda had been handed great gifts by the Bush administration, and that America was less safe than prior to 9/11. The conventional wisdom was that the “Bush legacy” would be that al Qaeda was much stronger and America was much weaker than before the Iraq war.

But commenter endorendil makes an interesting point when he muses “Official Washington is jumping on this information because it happens to be politically convenient: it gives a figleaf for the start of the retreat.” I don’t think that’s right, necessarily; true believers (like Wehner and the president) won’t be using this information to start a stampede out of the country. But it would give Obama cover to say “Hey, things are great, peace out Iraqis. Good luck holding your country together.” That, I think, is the great danger here–bugging out at the first sign of success in order to say “we did it, we won, and if it falls apart now it’s not our fault.”

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