The Washington Post has a pointed op-ed asking why the Democrats cannot acknowledge that the “surge” actually worked:
A reasonable response to these facts might involve an acknowledgment of the remarkable military progress, coupled with a reminder that the final goal of the surge set out by President Bush — political accords among Iraq’s competing factions — has not been reached. (That happens to be our reaction to a campaign that we greeted with skepticism a year ago.) It also would involve a willingness by the candidates to reconsider their long-standing plans to carry out a rapid withdrawal of remaining U.S. forces in Iraq as soon as they become president — a step that would almost certainly reverse the progress that has been made.
What Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson instead offered was an exclusive focus on the Iraqi political failures — coupled with a blizzard of assertions about the war that were at best unfounded and in several cases simply false. Mr. Obama led the way, claiming that Sunni tribes in Anbar province joined forces with U.S. troops against al-Qaeda in response to the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections — a far-fetched assertion for which he offered no evidence.
It’s simple: the Democrats cannot countenance the idea that Iraq is not failing, and that the surge worked. Just one year ago they were all saying that there was no end to the violence in Iraq. Now they have to face up to the fact that nearly every single dire prediction they made was false. None of them have the intellectual courage to admit that they were wrong. To do so would irretrievably endanger support from the vociferously anti-war base of the Democratic Party today.
As typical, political rhetoric and political reality are on opposite ends. The surge worked because it involved a significant change of tactics, using the successful model of Tal Afar on a national scale. The goal of the surge was never to make Iraq into another Switzerland. It’s hypocritical of the Democrats to simultaneously argue that it’s impossible to create democratic reforms through military force, then argue that the only way that the surge can be successful is to do exactly that. The purpose of the surge was always singular: to end Iraq’s spiral into anarchy and create the conditions upon which democratic development can occur. It’s up to the Iraqi people to take the next steps, and it will take some time before that happens. In the meantime, the level of violence has dropped precipitously and the qualitative measures of life in Iraq are becoming better than they were before the war—for example, electricity production is above where it was when Saddam was in power.
The Democrats don’t want to acknowledge these facts because they’re still wedded to a political narrative of defeat. For all their talk about being “agents of change” the Democrats apparently can’t drift too far from their political script on Iraq even when it makes them look desperately out of touch.