How does one go about measuring success in Iraq? The benchmarks set forth for the fledgling Iraqi government are nearly met (15 of 18 successfully met), violence and casualties are at a nearly all time low, and the government is able to act independently from the US forces.
In fact, countries that had been opposed to the war have begun bidding for free market contracts in helping rebuild the economy of the country - China, France. The economy is being stimulated by debt relief and re-establishment of foreign relations with it's neighbors - the UAE just forgave $7 Billion in debt accrued under Saddam.
Today, the Iraqi government made it clear that they intend the US to hand over control and security of the country shortly after the UN mandate for security of the country expires at the end of 2008. The government has made it clear that they are ready to assist the US with a phased withdrawal, proposing a timetable that would be conditioned on the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security. Iraqi police are battle hardened, after being dug in with their American counterparts; the tiny air force may be ready to take control of the airspace of Iraq, defending it from foreign invaders (Iran); and the people of Iraq have taken personal roles in ensuring safety and security in their own communities, often aiding in the routing of local thugs.
Could this mean that regardless of the Presidential race, the US will begin a withdrawal supported by the Iraqi government in early 2009? And is this the elusive "Mission Accomplished" that Bush has been looking for in Iraq?
I would say that this success, and the ability of Iraq to secure itself, is a victory for the United States. This is a war that is ready to be ended, but not for political reasons... because the country is ready for the war to be over.
The US should maintain a presence in the region for stability, as in Germany and Japan post WWII (and Korea, post TKW)... of course, at the request (or agreement) of the US backed Iraqi government.
If this is a successful end to the war, perhaps that is why Obama has flip-flopped on the issue and is now "considering the input from the generals on the ground"... I guess it feels good to be on a winning team after all!