Today's Blogs

Neighborhood Watch

Bloggers are impressed with a new report that shows 75 percent of Baghdad neighborhoods are now “secure.” Also, they mourn the passing of the young chess master Bobby Fischer—the old, paranoid anti-Semite Bobby Fischer, less so.

USA Today carries a cover story that says 356 of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad are now deemed pacified by the U.S. military. The vast majority are in the “control” category of a four-tier security rating, meaning they require U.S. and Iraqi forces to keep the peace; the other areas fall under the “retain” category, meaning local Iraqi police and security forces suffice. Most bloggers see this impressive accomplishment as the result of the surge. Others are less enthusiastic.

James Joyner of Outside the Beltway hits a common refrain: “Obviously, this is very good news. It goes too far, though, to say that this demonstrates that the Surge worked. The goal was to alleviate the worst of the violence — which has happened — so as to provide breathing room for political reconciliation. That has not been achieved.”

Jimmie at the Sundries Shack invites “Democrat friends to come over to the winning side now. Come on, guys. We’re beating the tar out of al-Qaeda. Iraqis who, 13 months ago lived with little hope now are welcoming their neighbors home, regardless of their sectarian affiliation. The Iraqi parliament, emboldened by our wilingness to stay and do the hard work on their behalf has passed the first of what is likely to be several reconciliation laws.” 

Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters notes that “[a]lthough the USA Today report fails to mention it, the recent breakthrough on de-Baathification reform will help integrate the city’s Sunnis back into the mainstream of government and society, helping to assuage sectarian conflicts.”

Ana Marie Cox, at Time’s Swampland, reads the article with John McCain on his campaign bus. “McCain is acutely aware the extent to which his own candidacy was revived, in part, by changing fortunes in Iraq,” she writes. “And he delights in the news itself, though, as he pointed out later, ‘it has come at great cost, paid with the most precious American treasure.’ ” National Review’s Corner offers up video of McCain showing off the article on the stump Friday.

Andrew Sullivan, a surge skeptic, offers congratulations, kind of: “It’s hard to know what else we can expect Petraeus to do. Some of the violence has obviously been displaced to other areas, but that doesn’t detract from the achievement. Increasingly, progress is now up to the Iraqis. Quite whether that’s a good or a worrying sign we shall soon find out.”

Read more about the USA Today piece.

King, queen, knave: Bobby Fischer has died at age 64. It was a bitter end for the chess prodigy who defeated Soviet champion Boris Spassky in 1972 in Reykjavik, which Fischer made his adopted home after facing criminal proceedings in the United States for violation of sanctions against Yugoslavia when he played Spassky in a rematch in 1992. Fischer ended his days saying things like “I want to see the U.S. wiped out,” and calling Jews “thieving, lying bastards.”

Reason’s David Weigel at Hit & Run says: “Fischer ended life, sadly, as a public freak, a deranged and bitter man overflowing with conspiracy theories, mostly about the Jews.” In that vein, Neoneocon digs up Fischer’s comments that the terror attacks of Sept. 11 were “wonderful news.”

New York Sun chess columnist Gabriel Schoenfeld writes at his Commentary blog connecting the dots: “Thanks to Bobby Fischer’s illness, the public has absorbed the idea that great chessplayers tend to be madmen. And while there have been several deranged grandmasters, it is doubtful that the frequency of mental illness in this group is higher than the average rate among geniuses. In the end, Bobby Fischer deserves to be remembered for his contributions, even if those contributions were seriously marred by the disrepute he brought upon the game of chess.”

Jon Swift says he won the Cold War: “When Fischer beat Spassky America was at a low point in its history. The Vietnam War was winding to a close without any sign of victory. The American basketball team lost the Olympic gold medal to the Soviets in a controversial game that summer. Communist influence was on the rise. But Bobby Fischer showed the world that we Americans still had one weapon in our arsenal. That weapon was our faith that we are better than anyone else in the world and therefore we don’t need to play by the world’s rules and if you rile us we are just as liable to overturn the chessboard as we are to humiliate you in 41 moves.”

Bill Ordine at the Baltimore Sun’s O, By the Way writes that he “was there for Fischer-Spassky. … I recall it went on forever and the hot dogs were made of lamb. And even with the confrontation being what it was – the young, brash American genius from Brooklyn against the established Soviet champion – it became increasingly difficult to root for Fischer because his eccentricities overshadowed an overwhelming sense of nationalism many of us felt at the height of the Cold War.”

Read more Fischer obits.