03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Parsing 'Surge' Commentary, Schieffer Gets To The Heart Of The Matter

Much has been made of Representative John Murtha and his supposed "hell freezing over" moment of praising the success of the "surge" in Iraq, and most of it has been wrong. But if there's a takeaway from Murtha's statements on the surge, it's that he's striven to be entirely fair in his analysis. And Murtha's fair contentions were ably supported by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who, with a son in the Iraq theater of war, can hardly be thought of as a man who would cheer on "defeat."

Webb's lengthy analysis on Meet The Press -- which as noted elsewhere was hefty enough to keep interlocutor Tim Russert sidelined -- delivered thoughtfully and without a trace of partisan passion advances the premise that the "surge" has not wrought success in itself, but the opportunity for success to be seized. As Webb notes:

So those components have come together, they have coupled with the fact that wherever the American military has gone they have done their job tactically, whether it was the initial invasion or now, and they have given us this moment. And I think Secretary Negroponte spoke yesterday of having this, this interval as well. We need to take advantage of this in a regional way, not simply an Iraq way.

The assessments from Murtha and Webb stand in contrast to the rhetoric of those who widely regard the "surge" as a completed mission and proof of concept for the entire Iraq War in the first place. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, for example, is billing the "surge" as the "most successful counter-insurgency effort in the history of the world." If only he had tipped off the environmental lobby in advance of these overheated, over-the-top comments! We might have harnessed the geothermic energy generated by all the spinning within the graves at Normandy.

Nevertheless, it was CBS' Bob Schieffer who most ably summed up the moment. Urging against the re-appearance of the "Mission Accomplished" banner, Schieffer opined:

Things have quieted down considerably. The additional troops the administration put into Iraq this year have made a difference, frankly more of a difference than I would have thought, and those troops deserve great credit.

But we must also keep our eye on the prize - or in this case, the continuing lack of one.

The whole idea of sending those troops in was to quiet things down so the factions within the Iraqi government could work out ways to share power and rule the country.

And so far, they haven't moved an inch.

[For the video of Schieffer's remarks, click here.]