Kick-off credit goes to Cobb from last night, mainly for summarizing the situation and drawing some correct conclusions about it: mainly, that we won the war but we're having an assload of problems with this nation-building thing.
Which brings us to Bryan Preston's assessment (h/t Instapundit) and Don Stoker's Foreign Policy article on insurgencies. Both mention the one country where the United States put in half a decade's hard fighting and four more decades of colonial rule only to wind up setting free a country that by the standards of today's press would be a miserable failure as a democracy. I'm talking about the Philippines, of course, where democracy is still kind of wobbly and the government is trying to cope with lots of poverty and two separate guerrilla/bandit forces at the same time. Stoker's big point is that if you can keep the guerrillas from setting up an alternative government and a "safe zone" inside the country, you're winning, and although he doesn't say it, the important thing is not to lose your nerve: the successful wars were all fought against colonial powers that either wearied of the fight (Algeria and Ireland) or regimes who lost their external support (Cuba and Nicaragua, both the first time with the Sandinistas and the second time with the Contras). The list of failed insurgencies is a lot longer than the list of successful ones.
The troops are willing to make this thing work, but the constant drip of MSM doomsaying and "support the troops - bring them home!" BS is affecting the troops' morale, to say the least.
Paradoxically, W has shot himself in the foot here by encouraging people on the home front to carry on with work and play and all that (what Glenn Reynolds jokingly referred to as the Retail Support Brigade), which gave rise to a lot of lame "if we stop doing X, the terrorists will have won!" jokes and also allowed people to forget that there was a real shooting war in Iraq and Afghanistan with serious long-term consequences. Realistically, though, what else could he really have done? Imposed a supplemental tax? Not needed, as the booming conomy proved. Called for a draft? Neither Rumsfeld nor the generals wanted one. Perhaps unfortunately for the war effort, the Iraq war has a lot more in common with the Philippine Insurrection than with WW2, except that the Moros didn't have the ability to crash zeppelins into the San Francisco and Honolulu business districts. Both wars were ugly, savage fights a long way from home in strange lands full of strange people who didn't seem to appreciate the fact that we'd liberated them from tyranny and were there to help put things back together again. Especially if you listened to the Democrats and their suppoting newspapers. Truly, everything old is new again.
As for the newspapers (and the MSM in general) James McCormick (hmmm, that name sounds familiar) of the ChicagoBoyz blog writes "America will get the MSM it wants when America takes its national security as seriously as its football." (Ed Driscoll) Word.
The bottom line is that we're probably not going to get a Germany or Japan result out of this. Both countries had a fairly homogenous, well-educated population, both had had at least a nominal exposure to some form of democracy in recent memory, and neither had large groups of people murderously pissed off at each other on ethnic/religious grounds. Most likely, Iraq is going to wind up like the Philippines after World War II, because we're not going to put up with the sort of corrupt governments South Korea had for almost forty years after the Korean war. The only remaining question, since General Petraeus knows his shit and the troops do too, is whether we can shut down what's left of Al-Qaida in Iraq and disarm the sectarian militias before the Congressional Democrats and the weak sisters like Chuck Hagel try to pull another Vietnam out of their ass.