Friday, May 25, 2007
Moving The Lines
It seems to be the consensus among liberal bloggers that Congressional Democrats could have played it a lot tougher on the Iraq War funding bill, since public opinion was overwhelmingly on their side of the issue. I'm going to go out on a limb here and propose that the consensus is wrong.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think that despite areas of progress, the Iraq War is globally headed towards disaster, if it isn't already there yet. And I think that policy-wise, now's the time to get our forces out of there, despite the Iraqi bloodletting that might follow.
But even if the American public by and large agrees with that, I don't think the Democratic Party has sufficiently rehabilitated its national security image (rightly or wrongly deserved) to be able to close the deal on this one without opening itself up to a major pr backlash. Sometimes demand for the product isn't enough. You need to generate trust for the salesperson, too.
Two things will need to happen before the Democrats can safely push this through. First, they need to establish a more pro-active national security "brand identity". That means a comprehensive program that calls for more than just withdrawing troops.
And second, I'm afraid things will have to get a bit worse over there. As things stand, there are still too many (admittedly unrealistic) longshot chances for progress that have yet to be ruled out by events on the ground. Every last one of them will come back to bite Democrats on the ass should they succeed in forcing a troop withdrawal on a defiant Bush administration.
This standoff advanced the lines of the debate dramatically, and it's unfortunate that the Democratic base, disappointed as it might be, should turn on the leadership so stridently. Bush will have to request more funds come September, by which time reality will have caught up to the illusions he's trying to peddle. More importantly, the Congressional GOP will provide cover for a more forceful endgame.
Tragically, hundreds more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians will die in the meantime. But we're closer now to putting an end to the war than we were six months ago. And that's progress.