THE IRAQI INSURGENCY….Is the Iraqi insurgency in its “last throes”? According to Knight Ridder’s Tom Lasseter, even the military brass doesn’t think so anymore:

“I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that … this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations,” Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. “It’s going to be settled in the political process.”

Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, expressed similar sentiments, calling the military’s efforts “the Pillsbury Doughboy idea” ? pressing the insurgency in one area only causes it to rise elsewhere.

“Like in Baghdad,” Casey said during an interview with two newspaper reporters, including one from Knight Ridder, last week. “We push in Baghdad ? they’re down to about less than a car bomb a day in Baghdad over the last week ? but in north-center (Iraq) … they’ve gone up,” he said. “The political process will be the decisive element.”

….Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn’t seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

“We can’t kill them all,” Wellman said. “When I kill one I create three.”

Elsewhere in the article an anonymous diplomat says the U.S. has a newfound willingness to negotiate with insurgent groups, a risky but potentially fruitful concession.

This may be a strategy born of desperation, but it still strikes me as good news. I don’t know if these guys have genuinely come to this conclusion recently, or if they’ve always felt this way and are only now starting to speak up, but it doesn’t really matter. The first step in dealing with a problem is to publicly acknowledge the reality of the problem, and it looks like this might finally be happening.

Of course, it’s also worth pointing out that the “political process” itself is still not going very well, and the training of Iraqi troops looks to be a long, hard slog indeed. A more realistic approach to Iraq is welcome, but none of this means the Iraqi insurgency is either solved or even solvable.

Still, at least now we have a chance.

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