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Monday, August 22, 2005

The Left squeezes the Democrats again 

This morning's Washington Post has an interesting article describing the inability of the leadership of the Democratic Party to reach a coherent position on the war. Activists on the Left are pushing the Democrats to call for withdrawal, but party warhorses Reid, Biden and Clinton quite sensibly believe that success in Iraq is "too important for the country." They also worry, I'm sure, that pushing for unilateral withdrawal will remind the country that Democrats of the current generation always push for unilateral withdrawal.

Cindy Sheehan has revealed this division more profoundly, because the activist base is using her to turn up the heat. Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee Chairman, thinks that none of this matters because it is the responsibility of the President, not the opposition, to come up with a plan for Iraq.

Well, the President does have a plan for Iraq, but the opposition does not like it. And it would help the credibility of the opposition if it acted as though it had any idea what it would do if it were in power, notwithstanding Chairman Dean's argument that merely opposing the President is sufficient.

Whether one thinks it was wise to invade Iraq or foolish, even the most strident opponents of the war agree that we are now fighting al Qaeda in Iraq. Whether one thinks we had a casus belli against Iraq in 2003, al Qaeda declared war against the United States in 1998. People who argue for withdrawal from Iraq today are therefore calling for the United States to retreat from a battle with al Qaeda. Why are they doing this? In some cases, it is because they are willing to suffer a defeat against al Qaeda in order to humiliate George Bush politically. In other cases, they believe that we are at war with al Qaeda because we are present in Muslim countries, and they believe that we should make peace with al Qaeda by withdrawing not just from Iraq, but from all Muslim lands. There are even those on the left (and undoubtedly among those putting heat on the Democratic leadership) who believe that al Qaeda is, essentially, a threat "made up" for some nefarious purpose (generally involving Israel).

The only argument in favor of withdrawal from Iraq that does not amount surrender or denial is the claim that a tactical retreat from the Sunni Triangle will improve our chances in the broader war. Not only will we have more resources to fight al Qaeda elsewhere (the argument goes), but withdrawal from Iraq will reduce al Qaeda's ability to attract funding and recruits.

Is there any example in all of military history or in al Qaeda's own conduct to suggest that this might be true? If al Qaeda believes it has the United States on the run, is there any possibility that it will not use this victory to attract more money and recruits? Today, a potential donor or volunteer has to worry that his treasure or blood will be sacrificed for nothing. After an American retreat from Iraq ultimate victory would seem possible, and the money and recruits would pour in.

Perhaps worse, a retreat from Iraq would shatter American credibility with the regimes that matter the most: Arab and Muslim governments that are in a position to infiltrate and hammer al Qaeda. For better or for worse, the Arab world knows that the Bush administration will back up its words with deeds. That is of enormous value in our contest to coerce Arab and other Muslim regimes more effectively than al Qaeda.

The Bush administration is vulnerable on Iraq, but it is for not trying hard enough. If the Democrats want to win in 2008, they should attack Bush from the right. They should criticize him for not doing more to attract soldiers into the armed forces, for not rebuilding the armed forces to deal with civil insurgency, and for not putting enough soldiers into Iraq to pacify larger parts of the country. This is the only winning strategy against the Republicans, and the Democrats are fools not to adopt it. They don't, because the head-in-the-sand anti-war movement has held the party in thrall since 1972. American voters know that, and will keep electing Republicans (by and large) until that changes.

9 Comments:

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 22, 09:20:00 AM:

I'm baffled, Tiger. The Dems, unable to form a coherent Iraq policy? I'm shocked. Didn't McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry establish the Democratic Doctrine for foreign policy? I'm sure they did... the details are just a little fuzzy.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 22, 09:34:00 AM:

Btw, just before reading your post, I argued elsewhere that Bush was vulnerable on the right flank for not prosecuting the War hard enough. The Dem Party can't make this argument, however, without alienating its Left Wing.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 22, 01:45:00 PM:

bush is also vulnerable on the right for not clearly articulating, over and over again, the reasons for the war and for staying in iraq.

the dems of course won't go near that one either.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 22, 02:46:00 PM:

Anon- agree 100%. He's a war leader who isn't leading. The whole "I told you what I think; I ain't sayin' no more" foolishness has cost him dearly. When boys are dying, a war leader has to be selling. That's not good or bad- it's just reality.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 22, 03:03:00 PM:

Anon: apparently, Newt Gingrich agrees with us: "Let me just say that I think it would be helpful for the country if the President were consistently reminding people that we have real enemies, that these enemies are the irreconcilable wing of Islam, that they’ve said publicly and clearly they want to kill us...."  

By Blogger callmemickey, at Mon Aug 22, 04:18:00 PM:

Well I think he is starting to try and sell the war to the skeptics, but there is one major obstacle, it doesnt matter what he says if it isn't covered truthfully or at all in the media.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Mon Aug 22, 04:40:00 PM:

True.. but that's nothing new. Thought he did a pretty good job during the campaign of selling the WOT. My gripe is that his handlers are too fearful that's he's a poor speaker. He's not eloquent but he gets the job done and he's likeable. Let W be W.  

By Blogger callmemickey, at Mon Aug 22, 06:15:00 PM:

i agree entirely that they aren't letting his average man likeability shine.. i mean seriously, the people that think he is a poor speaker think hes a complete moron, so they might as well let him surprise them..  

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