USA Today:

For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — the reason Bush emphasized in making the case for invading. The administration’s credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003.

By 58%-37%, a majority say the United States won’t be able to establish a stable, democratic government in Iraq.

About one-third, 32%, say the United States can’t win the war in Iraq. Another 21% say the United States could win the war, but they don’t think it will. Just 43% predict a victory.

No doubt increasing American deaths in Iraq, especially the deaths of 14 Marines due to a roadside bomb in western Iraq have accelerated a long decline in optimism about the war.  Today, the Pentagon announced a new military operation in western Iraq dubbed “Operation Quick Strike.”

The operation, dubbed Quick Strike, began Wednesday with Iraqi soldiers and Marines positioning their units, said a military statement. They are focused on an area centered around the cities of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Parwana, about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

On Wednesday, 14 Marines and their civilian translator were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Haditha as they traveled inside a lightly armored vehicle.

On Friday, U.S. and Iraqi troops, including Special Operations forces, moved into the city of Haqlaniyah, the Marine statement said. U.S. jets attacked insurgents hiding in buildings outside the town.

Residents in the area said U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off Haqlaniyah and were conducting house-to-house searches. U.S. warplanes circled overhead and a number of heavy explosions were heard. Witnesses said 500-pound bombs were being dropped in the area.

Now, I’m just an average American citizen with minimal knowledge of military tactics, so I’m confused as to how this new-fangled Operation Quick Strike appreciably differs from our previously numerous, but less prominently named operations in western Iraq.

The U.S. military has defended its operations in western Iraq, insisting it is reducing insurgent attacks, despite the deaths of the 14 Marines.

If I were the jaded, cynical sort, I’d surmise this latest high-profile operation is simply that: high-profile.  If I were a hand-wringing moralist, I’d worry that, in an effort to create the appearance of results for Operation Quick Strike, the Pentagon may be tempted to put our troops under greater danger than usual in order to achieve this goal.  But, while a majority of the American public may disagree, I for one will continue to resist such cynicism and moralism.

After all, it is neither Americans nor insurgents who will determine who wins this war, but a third party nebulously defined as the “Iraqi People.”  Their hearts, minds and quality of life will determine the success of our efforts.

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