The editors answer with a "guarded" yes to their self-imposed query on whether or not things are making a turn for the better in Iraq, though they warn that the improvements do not necessarily foretell certain and imminent victory.
"The hope (once shared, we admit, by this newspaper) that the West's armies could return swiftly home and leave good order behind them was naive. Saddam Hussein and the Taliban ran cruel dictatorships. But in uprooting them the West exposed deep tribal and sectarian schisms, unleashing violent forces that the dictators had kept in check and which could not be reconciled simply by installing democratic procedures. Although Afghans and Iraqis voted eagerly for democratic constitutions and new governments, these governments are not working well. The losers have not accepted defeat; meanwhile, the winners, especially in Iraq, have been determined to take all.
In such circumstances, “victory” for the West is not going in either place to entail a surrender ceremony and a parade. At best, coming good will consist of a tapering off of violence, and a crab-wise movement towards a political accommodation between the governments elected under Western supervision and the militias now fighting them. At worst, of course, the West can be defeated. Even if America and its allies prevail in every battle, public opinion may tire of the fight and bring the boys home. Spain, Australia and others have already given up on Iraq. Even the faithful British are now pulling out—albeit under cover of the half-truth that their job in the south is done."
Though noting the signs of progress in Iraq, the Economist's editorial board is not yet ready to call for withdrawal, writing that "American withdrawal is more likely to end political bargaining and provoke a free-for-all."
Even so, the article examining the current state of Iraq, "Can a lull be turned into real peace?," makes it evident that a lack of willingness to bargain already plagues Baghdad's political progress. The current lull can be turned into real peace, though it will take much effort, cooperation, money, and manpower--all of which could be rendered null by a single well-chosen assassination.
Though the Economist doesn't reveal any profound new thinking in its examination of Iraq, its strength lies in the comprehensiveness of its overview of the current state of affairs.