Langevin Stuck in November ’06
I had a chance to hear a portion of Dan Yorke’s interview with Congressman Jim Langevin yesterday afternoon. When asked about Iraq, Rep. Langevin continued to trumpet the line that things are getting worse in Iraq and that the “surge” won’t work. They’ve already made up their minds and this unwillingness to reassess the situation when things may actually be changing is indicative of the quandary the Democratic Congress finds itself in.
They have staked their political fortunes to the popular perception of Iraq–it’s bad and getting worse–that they believe got them elected to a majority last November. After years of calling for change in strategy and finally getting their wish with General Petraeus’ new plan, they’ve now moved the goalposts and said, “Sorry, it’s too late.” Whether it is or isn’t too late is still a question, but one that can’t be answered by just saying so. The reality is that the recent successes in Baghdad are an example of how there is an inherent problem in trying to manage a war legislatively. The situation “on the ground” can change quickly. Washington bureaucracy: not so much.
The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger has a piece that contrasts the military vs. legislative reality (here’s his source). A sample:
On Jan. 23 Gen. Petraeus offered the Senate Armed Services Committee an outline of the surge. By Feb. 8, U.S. paratroopers and engineers in Baghdad had quickly put together 10 Joint Security Stations, the new command centers to be operated with Iraq’s security forces…On Feb. 10, Gen. Petraeus arrived to take command of these forces in Baghdad. In the second week of February, U.S. troops conducted 20,000 patrols compared to 7,400 the week before.
On Feb. 16, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, 246-182, to oppose the mission. Nancy Pelosi: “The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success.”
…On March 4, 600 U.S. and 550 Iraqi forces commenced house-to-house searches in Sadr City’s Jamil neighborhood. Also in early March, with little fanfare, U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested 16 individuals connected with the Jaysh al-Mahdi cell, suspected of sectarian kidnappings and killings.
On March 23, the House voted 218-212 to remove these U.S. forces by August’s end, 2008.
It’s not quite three months since the surge began in Iraq, and some early assessments of the operation have emerged. They are positive. Keep in mind that this strategy emerged from military reassessment over the past year, led largely by Gen. Petraeus; this isn’t a pick-up team.
But the Democrats are locked into a narrative of predetermined failure in Iraq. Henninger recommends a way out:
If the Iraq surge is succeeding, the Democrats’ surge should stand down. If a year from now the Petraeus plan is foundering, the Democrats will have plenty of time to hang it around the GOP’s neck by demanding a legitimate withdrawal date–November 2008. But not now.