The Bush Parade

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fill today's op-ed pages. In the New York Times, former George W. Bush administration official and Iraq invasion advocate Paul Wolfowitz thinks South Korea is "a model for Iraq," meaning that America stayed after that unpopular-at-the-time war and the ROK turned into a great "success story." Times columnist David Brooks says "nation building works," and highlights Iraq's growing economy and oil industry, positive Iraqi public opinion, improving infrastructure and Iraqi forces, and better political structure (except for that bothersome stalemate) and freedom. And yet, he notes (citing former Ambassador Ryan Crocker's article in the July-August 2010 issue of The National Interest), "fear still pervades Iraq," the success is "fragile and incomplete," and President Obama should "balance pride with caution" in tonight's speech.

Speaking of Mr. Crocker, he has piece in the Washington Post arguing that, just as the Persian Gulf War did not end the "disorder" of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the end of combat operations in Iraq now is only the "beginning" of Iraq's "new story." He emphasizes the "enormity of the challenges" that lie ahead, and he hopes that "we will listen carefully" if Iraqis ask for "a U.S. military presence" beyond 2011.

And completing the parade of ex-Bush administration officials, the Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed by Stephen Hadley, the former national security adviser. Hadley makes many of the same points as Wolfowitz and Crocker: Saddam was bad, now Iraq is good, the U.S. has an ally, the Iraqis can run things themselves now, etc. Hadley also says Obama "has built on this success," and as he strengthens the "long-term" parnership between Washington and Baghdad it will "make the U.S. effort in Iraq a hard-won success for all Americans."

All three papers also provide commentary comparing Iraq to Afghanistan. In the Journal, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says "the surge worked," although Obama and the Democrats "still cannot bear to admit" that the war in Iraq is "ending successfully." And until the president can give credit where credit is due, McCain writes, the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan won't succeed. But William McGurn finds a silver lining, writing that "Obama policy is better than Obama rhetoric,"  and the presidentwhile "no Winston Churchill"will slow withdrawal if he must, just as General Petraeus and President Bush did for Iraq. On the other hand, Post columnist Eugene Robinson says altough we didn't lose in Iraq, "we can't claim victory, either" and asks how many more Americans have to die before we realize that the same will ultimately be true in Afghanistan. Times commentator Bob Herbert agrees and writes that "we're in this state of nonstop warfare" because "so few Americans had any personal stake" in Iraq and Afghanistan.