The Democrats’ Quagmire

Michael Barone takes a look at the Democratic divide over funding the troops in Iraq. Politically, they’re in a quagmire of their own making over this issue. The increasingly vociferous anti-war caucus in the Democratic Party wants the funding cut and an immediate unilateral withdrawal — something that even many Democrats know would be incredibly dangerous for the security of the region. However, with the Majority Leader of the Senate waving the white flag and calling the war “lost” it’s going to be that much harder for the Democrats to do anything but cut funding. If the Democrats really believe that Iraq is utterly unwinnable, they cannot responsibly keep our troops there under any timetable. The anti-war radicals have the most consistent position (if consistently wrong) — if Iraq truly is lost, then there is absolutely no point to keeping US forces in Iraq.

Doug Shoen of the Boston Globe they see the subtle signs of progress that the rest of us never see. The “surge” has produced results, and while the enemy is doing what they can to sow death in Baghdad, their stream of bombings are only one element of the story. It’s relatively easy to hit largely undefended civilian targets with car bombs in a nation that’s awash with munitions of every conceivable kind. It’s much harder to reverse the progress of an entire nation. The surge isn’t just over halfway in place. The enemy knows that Congress is deliberating on troop funding, which is why they’re ratcheting up the violence as much as they possibly can.

That is precisely the trap the Democrats are running into. For someone who isn’t a Democratic partisan, it doesn’t look very seemly that the Democrats seem to be doing exactly what the terrorists in Iraq want us to do. The fact that the position of Harry Reid and Ayman al-Zawahiri on Iraq are now identical doesn’t exactly make the Democrats look good. The constant stream of negativity and the open defeatism of the Democrats rub against the American spirit. There have been hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who have been deployed to Iraq. The vast majority of them support the mission and hate the way in which the Democrats and the mainstream media have portrayed this war.

That defeatism will not be free from political price. The Democratic Congress has approval ratings lower than even the President’s, yet they see themselves as having a mandate from the American people to end the war in Iraq by whatever means. However, they’re wrong on that count. The American people have tired of the war, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that they want to see Congress start waving the white flag either. A unilateral withdrawal from Iraq will leave genocide in its wake on a scale never seen in the region. The Middle East will be destabilized for decades to come, and a regional nuclear arms race is a virtual surety. Yet the Democrats are deliberately blinding themselves to anything but the short-term consequences of their actions. Their sights are firmly focused on 2008 and nothing but.

That kind of short-sighted hubris is contemptible. The Democratic leadership finds themselves in the position of either having to put their money where their mouths are and cutting the funds or continuing a war they’ve already surrendered. Either they incur the wrath of the anti-war left and continue the funding, or they become the party that is saddled with the consequences of an ignominious American defeat. They’ve been trying to walk the line for months now, but their time is running out.

This is a quagmire of their own making. If they’d kept on talking about how they needed to change strategy in Iraq, they would be on top of this issue. If they’d taken credit for Bush getting rid of Rumsfeld, cracking down in al-Maliki’s government, and starting the “surge” they could have completed the GOP crack-up on national security. They could have credibly taken credit for every change that was made in the wake of the 2006 elections. But they chose to side with the anti-war partisans who now control the Democratic political machine. Now, they’re being pushed towards a course of action that will lead to a defeat in the war on terrorism. (A term they now apparently reject.) The consequences of that choice will have disastrous effects on this country for years to come.

A party with political courage and a true sense of patriotism would not have put this country in such a position. Even if one accepts that this war has been incompetently run, the Democrats have been no more competent than the Bush Administration, and are now outright advocating the same thing as the enemy. What is the substantive difference between Harry Reid and Ayman al-Zawahiri on Iraq? Both argue that the war in Iraq is lost. Both argue that the United States can find no military solution to the region’s problems. Both argue that the only way for America to win is to try to “talk” to the people who have sworn its destruction. The fact that the rhetoric from the Democrats might as well be the same thing echoing from al-Jazeera should give the Democrats pause. Their war is between themselves and the Republican Party, not between a united America and the barbarians who threaten to destroy it. Their war has produced collateral damage that threatens to ensure our enemies emerge victorious — and the fact that they seem completely unwilling to engage with those realities suggests that they remain fundamentally unfit to lead.