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"A secure, stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is, in my view, attainable."


U.S. ambassador to Iraq

In Washington, D.C., where political hyperbole is the common currency, that may be the most astonishingly optimistic statement of the year. Especially when you contrast it with this one:

"As we look ahead, we must acknowledge that 2006 was a bad year in Iraq. The country came close to unraveling politically, economically, and in security terms. 2007 has brought some improvements."

That underwhelming second statement, like the first, came Monday from Ambassador Crocker's long-awaited testimony to Congress about political progress in Iraq.

So how, Mr. Ambassador, are we, the American people, supposed to reconcile these statements? How do we get from an Iraq that "came close to unraveling" to one that is "secure, stable and democratic"? And how long will it take?

Crocker did not say, except that, "This process will not be quick" and " . . . will require substantial U.S. resolve and commitment."

Read: There is no horizon in sight.

Well, Mr. Ambassador, that's not good enough. The United States cannot continue to pour blood and treasure into this war, jeopardizing our Army and the national security, with no more hope of success than that.

Crocker acknowledged that political reconciliation in the form of legislation in Baghdad is at a standstill. Nevertheless, he pinned his hopes on the thin reed of evolving Iraqi federalism. In local communities, he said, "security gains have opened the door for meaningful politics."

Somehow, he expects this nascent federalism to transform Iraq.

We believe, however, that so long as the United States remains an occupying power in Iraq, national political reconciliation will be thwarted because the central government will be identified with the hated occupiers.

Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, also gave Congress his assessment Monday, arguing that the troop surge has improved security and that some combat brigades will be withdrawn beginning in December. But that scaling-back to the pre-surge level of 130,000 Americans by next summer is unacceptably slow. More soldiers should come home sooner.

We don't doubt that Petraeus and the troops are performing well. But they can't win this war. Only Iraqi politicians can do that, and unlike Crocker, we don't see that happening.