HOW ARE WE DOING IN IRAQ?….There are two subjects that an awful lot of people seem to evaluate based almost solely on whether they like George Bush: (a) the strength of the economy and (b) our success in Iraq. If you like Bush, then the economy is great and Iraq is improving. If you don’t, we’re still in a recession and Iraq is doomed. Needless to say, opinions like these are barely worth the pixels they’re displayed with.

The Economist, however, is both a supporter of George Bush and a supporter of the war in Iraq, which makes this headline pretty disturbing:

Doomed, or still recoverable?

Iraq is on the edge. It is unclear, for America and its Iraqi allies, whether success or failure beckons. But progress towards peace and prosperity is still feasible, just

Their best case is that maybe we’re not completely screwed? Sheesh. This is not to say that the Economist has any special handle on the truth, of course, but even their enthusiasm for the war hasn’t been enough to keep them from getting steadily more pessimistic over the past few months.

Me too. I was skeptical a couple of months ago, before all the awful November attacks, and it’s hard not to be even more skeptical now. My sense these days is that facts on the ground are so grim that even the administration’s traditional supporters are having a hard time pretending that everything is going great. Operation Push Back (remember that?) is just a dim and embarrassing memory, and stories like this one about the sheltered existence of CPA workers inside the “Green Zone” don’t help either:

Venturing from the protection of the Green Zone is not just a chore, it’s a feat. Forms must be filled out explaining the reason for the outing, requesting transportation and a protective detail. Some trips must be rescheduled three or four times, with recent trips to visit children at an orphanage, to speak at a women’s center and repair a water treatment plant postponed because of security concerns.

….”The Americans are behind the walls in the palace. They have difficulty knowing what’s going on. I call it the ‘green area syndrome,’ ” said Frank Dall, project director for District-based Creative Associates International Inc., which is assisting the U.S. Agency for International Development with education reform and is housed outside the zone.

It’s hard to believe that much of anything is going well when you can’t even walk the streets without a heavily armed escort.

Of course, I can always just go read Andrew Sullivan if I want the happy talk version of events. I’m glad to see that he’s not caving in to the gloom-mongering.

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