Debate A: Was launching the war a good idea in 2003?
Debate B: Should we "surge" or withdraw in 2007?
Haven't the Democrats, by prosecuting their funding fight with Bush over setting a withdrawal deadline, succeeded in changing the Iraq debate from A to B? From a debate over the war to a debate over the surge? From a debate about the last four years to a debate about the last four months?
And if so, isn't that a really dumb thing for them to do? Debate A looks like a sure winner for Democrats--it's hard to see anything happening between now and 2008 that would convince a majority of voters that starting the war in the first place was a good idea. Debate B, on the other hand, looks much iffier, as the surge shows at least some signs of at least temporary success. Even if the Democrats are right on Debate B they might lose Debate B. The more the surge succeeds, the more Debate B becomes a tossup. But even with a muddled "surge" scorecard, Debate B might skew against the Democrats if the aftermath of a pullout continues to look bloody and chaotic.**
Only a strategic mastermind like N. Pelosi would shift from an argument her party is bound to win to an argument it might lose.*** It would be especially ironic if Democrats lose Debate B because voters are convinced withdrawing would produce a sectarian bloodbath--since that would ordinarily be a powerful additional argument for a Dem victory in Debate A (i.e., the decision to launch the war has been such a disaster that we can't even withdraw in good conscience--we're trapped).
**--You hear rumblings that the Bushies know the surge won't ultimately succeed in winning (i.e. stabilizing) Iraq. But it could still succeed in winning the 2008 election. It's not hard to imagine the Bush administration pursuing the surge through November, 2008--and then shifting to a Juan Cole-like 'negotiated withdrawal' strategy. ...
***--I would guess we're about 36 hours from the first pundit speculating that Speaker Pelosi doesn't really want a Democrat to win the presidency, because Pelosi and the Congressional Dems have more prominence as an opposition power center. Under President Obama, nobody will care if Pelosi travels to Syria. ... Maybe Dick Morris has already said this. ...
Update: N.Z. Bear charges that the Dems have unnecessarily "become fully and totally invested in failure." (Tish Durkin has a good Iraqi invested-in-failure anecdote in her underappreciated, agonized Huffington post.) ... Backfill: Thomas Edsall implicitly made an argument like this in the NYT of 3/22. And you don't even have to pay to read it. ... 12:56 A.M. link
Friday, Ap ril 6, 2007
Hawks for Humiliation: Am I missing something? Why exactly was the resolution of the latest Iran hostage crisis a "success" for Iran and a "humiliation" for Britain, as the hawkish Charles Krauthammer argues (and Geoffrey Wheatcroft insinuates but doesn't quite come out and say in his own voice, as opposed to John Bolton's)?The hostages were released in a one-day propaganda stunt, maybe in exchange for the release of an Iranian we were holding and Iranian visitation rights for some others. But the Iranians were also looking at an awful lot of aircraft carriers steaming around their neighborhood. Didn't they blink? If that's humiliation, it's not far from what a U.S.-U.K. victory in the crisis would look like. I counter the right hand with the far right hand--an analysis on David Horowitz's FrontPage site that departs significantly from the Bolton-Krauthammer party line:
As Britain refused to apologize for the behavior of its boarding party, continuing to insist that they were operating in dsfaIraqi waters – not inside Iran's territorial waters, as Tehran alleged – some of Khamenei's advisors began to have second thoughts.
Adding to those doubts were whispered reports that the USS Nimitz was steaming toward the Persian Gulf– making it the third Carrier Strike Group in the area. [snip]
So for now, Tehran's leaders have backed down.