Pullback on Pulling Out
The Associated Press reports that several Congressional Democrats have realized that the “surge” actually seems to be accomplishing something:
One senator said U.S. troops are routing out al-Qaida in parts of Iraq. Another insisted President Bush’s plan to increase troops has caused tactical momentum.
One even went so far on Wednesday as to say the argument could be made that U.S. troops are winning.
These are not Bush-backing GOP die-hards, but Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Bob Casey and Jack Reed. Even Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, said progress was being made by soldiers.
The suggestions by them and other Democrats in recent days that at least a portion of Bush’s strategy in Iraq is working is somewhat surprising, considering the bitter exchanges on Capitol Hill between the Democratic majority and Republicans and Bush. Democrats have long said Bush’s policies have been nothing more than a complete failure.
John Hinderaker suggests that there are two possible explanations for this phenomenon:
[E]ither the Democrats are acting in good faith, and are honest enough to acknowledge success when they see it, or polls and focus groups have convinced them that they need to distance themselves from the MoveOn, anti-military wing of their party.
The former is hard to credit from this crowd, but there’s certainly something to the latter, as the article itself suggests. The middle half of the article is given over to Democrat Congresscritters lauding our troops but bashing Bush and the Iraqi government.
But I think the real reason for this rather sudden change of heart is something slightly different from simply saying what the voters want to hear about our soldiers. The troops have rarely wanted for praise from politicians who’ve been insisting for years that they not be allowed to finish the mission for which they’ve toiled and bled and watched their buddies die. No, the real story here is in the article’s last quotation:
California Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney had a different take. After visiting Iraq last month and visiting with Petraeus, McNerney said signs of progress led him to decide he’ll be a little more flexible about when troops should be brought home.
“I’m more willing to work with finding a way forward to accommodate what the generals are saying,” McNerney said.
In short, with the polls showing support for the mission improving of late as the realities of actual progress make themselves known, this is the first step of the climbdown from their heretofore steadfast insistence on mandating defeat. They have a little over a month now before General Petraeus’ briefing. A few weeks ago they could still convince themselves he wouldn’t say anything that would hinder them from forcing a pullout. But things have changed.
So, I think we can expect rather a lot more of this sort of talk over the next few weeks. And then, if General Petraeus says what everyone who’s actually been paying attention since before the polls swung ’round is expecting him to, they’ll have given themselves advance cover for the switch. That they can do so while still castigating Bush out of the other side of their mouths is just the spoonful of sugar.
This think piece from the NYT would appear to be part of the growing campaign to get on the right side of this war and support a Democratic congressional surrender in September. They have finally figured out they can’t pull the rug out from under the troops in the field, particularly when they are winning. Now, they need to make it look like it was their idea….
[T]hey are beginning to sense that withdrawal at all costs, the congressional plan, is not going to survive September. The talk about withdrawal is being replaced by practical concerns, which give everyone an out and ultimately, give them the opportunity to side with the generals.
UPDATE (8/18/07): Another prominent Democrat opponent of the war fulfills my prediction. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) has announced a change of position after surveying the situation for himself:
U.S. Rep. Brian Baird said Thursday that his recent trip to Iraq convinced him the military needs more time in the region, and that a hasty pullout would cause chaos that helps Iran and harms U.S. security.
“I believe that the decision to invade Iraq and the post-invasion management of that country were among the largest foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. I voted against them, and I still think they were the right votes,” Baird said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
“But we’re on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work.”
Baird, a five-term Democrat, voted against President Bush ordering the Iraq invasion — at a time when he was in a minority in Congress and at risk of alienating voters. He returned late Tuesday from a trip that included stops in Israel, Jordan and Iraq, where he met troops, U.S. advisers and Iraqis, whose stories have convinced him that U.S. troops must stay longer….
Baird said he would not say this if he didn’t believe two things:
• “One, I think we’re making real progress.”
• “Secondly, I think the consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves, to whom we have a tremendous responsibility… and in the long run chaotic for the region as a whole and for our own security.”
(Via Captain Ed)