The Iraq Surge and the Democrats’ Non-Solutions
Like Rich Lowry, I think that the President’s new Iraq plan (“the Surge”) is “better late than never.” And that applies to more than just changes in the military operations side of things and includes such “hearts and minds” actions as giving ground commanders more walking around money and the implementation of an Iraq Oil Trust (a Glenn Reynolds favorite). Ralph Peters, a frequent critic of the way that the Iraq war has been waged, is willing to give the new plan a chance. In particular, he points to signs that, finally, Iraq President Maliki may be serious about the bi-partisan militia disarmament (ie; even Shia militias, like that of Maliki’s fellow Shia Moqtada Al Sadr, will be told to disarm or else). But Peters warns that there are more obstacles to winning than just the militias, insurgents and terrorists:
And there’s going to be another major problem that will require great fortitude on the president’s part: Destructive fighting lies ahead in Baghdad, and the international media is going to blame us for every broken window and every Iraqi with photogenic wounds. We’ll be accused of atrocities and wanton destruction, and the press corps will trot out the Vietnam-era cliché about “destroying the village in order to save it.”
Our troops can stand up to any enemy. But I’m not as certain President Bush can withstand the onslaught of an enraged media – and any prospect that we might be turning the situation around will certainly enrage them. Media pressure will work through our allies, too.
Senator Joe Lieberman supports the President’s new plan as does Rudy Giulianni. Both called on a scaling back of the partisan bickering that has so characterized the Iraq War, with Giulianni stating, “Success or failure in Iraq is not a matter of partisan politics but a matter of national security. All Americans should be hoping, praying and offering constructive advice for the success of our troops in Iraq and for those Iraqis seeking to create a stable and decent government,” and Senator Lieberman writing:
I know there are deep differences of opinion about what the President has proposed tonight. In the coming days and weeks, we should undertake respectful debate and deliberation over this new plan. But, let us also remember that excessive partisan division and rancor at home only weakens our will to prevail in this war…At the moment, we and our Iraqi allies are not winning in Iraq and the American people are understandably frustrated by the miscalculations, the lack of progress, and the daily scenes of violence and casualties. But, make no mistake – defeat in Iraq would result in a moral and strategic setback in our global struggle against Islamist extremists who seek to strike our interests and our homeland…
Tonight, the President did not take the easy path, but he took the correct and courageous course. We are engaged in a world-wide struggle against Islamist extremism, and Iraq is now the central front. It is a dangerous illusion to believe that we can depart Iraq and the inevitable killing fields and terrorist violence will not follow us in retreat – even to our own shores. That is why it is right and imperative that we recommit ourselves to success in Iraq. Weakness only emboldens our enemy, but united resolution will make our nation safer for generations to come.”
Yet, unsurprisingly, Democrats (and some Republicans) plan to oppose the plan, many for mainly partisan reasons. Yes, many Democrats believe it’s time to pull out and let Iraq stand on its own. Sounds good, and I wish it were true, but I don’t think that anyone really believes that the Iraq military or government is up to the task quite yet. Unfortunately, mostly the Democrats seem to want to “criticize Bush without taking any responsibility” as the Wall Street Journal writes today (via NLT).
So the Democrats want the political mileage of opposing the troop increase rhetorically. What they don’t want is to take responsibility for their own policy choice. Meanwhile, their rhetoric will only serve to reassure the jihadis that sooner or later Democrats will force a U.S. withdrawal.
And Victor Davis Hanson adds:
After listening tonight to Wesley Clark, Dick Durbin, Tom Vilsack, Nancy Pelosi, etc. I still can’t for the life of me learn what they want to do. Not one will support Ted Kennedy’s cut-off of funds. Apparently the party line is that we can’t win, but we’re afraid to pull out in case we do, and so we will equivocate as we watch the battlefield and make the necessary rhetorical adjustments just in time. Just what we saw in the past Reid/Biden/etc. call for the surge, then huff/puff when they got their wish. Apparently the shame of 1974-5 cut-offs apparently still haunt the entire party.
And much of the Democrat (and some Republican) carping may be because so many are trying to position (insulate?) themselves for their 2008 political campaigns (Presidential and other).
But what Mr. Bush didn’t refer to in his 2,900-word speech is what the media have been chewing on the past several days: the political implications of this proposal here at home.
First off, polls showed that the wave that washed the congressional Democrats into power was due in large part to the war in Iraq. In response, Democrats will be holding week after week of hearings on the war.
Democrats also been mulling over legislation that would actually have some teeth — from threats to cut funding for more troops to an idea that Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy proposed Tuesday: forcing a congressional vote any time the president wants to increase the number of troops.
That’s easier said than done, however. So in the meantime, the newly emboldened Dems are eager to get Republicans on the record on Iraq, not just to have the upper hand now — but for the next election as well.
For instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he’s going to bring a non-binding resolution to the floor next week that says the Senate disagrees with sending more troops to Iraq. If it’s non-binding, what’s the point?
“If there is a bipartisan resolution saying, ‘We don’t support this escalation of the war,’ then the president’s going to have to take note of that,” Reid told reporters.
That’s one reason. But it will also put the 21 Republican senators who are up for re-election in 2008 on the spot, giving those who vote against it an opening for their opponents next year.
In fact, four of those senators are on the record already saying they’re not fans of the troop increase: Sens. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; and John Warner, R-Va.
The ripple effect of the president’s proposal is also evident in the nascent 2008 presidential race, with the liberal group MoveOn.org going as far as running a TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire next week against yet-to-announce candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz…Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates and candidates-to-be have been trying to out-sound bite each other with criticism of the Bush plan.
Former Sen. John Edwards has even gone so far to label the president’s plan “the McCain Doctrine” — a dig at the presumed Republican front-runner.
So I’m left to believe that, for too many politicians, even during war, it’s just “politics as usual.” The President may have a new plan, but the Democrats are still reading from their Election-winning script–move the goalposts and carp at every move and look for any partisan political edge they can get–and some nervous Republicans are running for political cover instead of supporting the President.
Again, I say this because I have yet to see a clear, realistic, alternative plan from the naysayers. The President went out of his way to listen to “all sides,” and still it’s not enough. But now we have the final surge and the President is staking his legacy on its success. This is a last chance for Maliki and the Iraqi’s to put up or shut up. If they fail then Iraq will be a weakened, near-failed state ripe for exploitation by radical jihadists. Failure in Iraq will endanger our own security, whether people want to put their head in the sand and ignore it or not. Hyperbole? No. The situation has happened before. Remember Afghanistan?