November 14, 2005

Washington Post: The Politics of War

Fred Hiatt has an excellent column in the Washington Post today regarding the politicization of the Iraq War:

Whether Iraqis are in fact committed to a life-or-death struggle for democracy will become clear as its army does, or does not, continue to shoulder a greater burden. But the aptness of Mahdi's view of the United States is already evident in Congress, which pours most of its Iraq-related energy into allegations of manipulated intelligence before the war.

"Those aren't irrelevant questions," says Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). "But the more they dominate the public debate, the harder it is to sustain public support for the war."

What Lieberman doesn't say is that many Democrats would view such an outcome as an advantage. Their focus on 2002 is a way to further undercut President Bush, and Bush's war, without taking the risk of offering an alternative strategy -- to satisfy their withdraw-now constituents without being accountable for a withdraw-now position.

Many of them understand that dwindling public support could force the United States into a self-defeating position, and that defeat in Iraq would be disastrous for the United States as well as for Mahdi and his countrymen. But the taste of political blood as Bush weakens, combined with their embarrassment at having supported the war in the first place, seems to override that understanding.

The Democrats could be responsible and fiercely critical, too, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has shown throughout the war. When they pull a stunt such as insisting on a secret Senate session, it could be to debate Bush's policies on torture and detention. They could ask whether everything possible is being done to furnish the Iraqi army with protective armor. They could question whether anyone inside the administration is focusing with the same urgency on prodding Iraqi politicians toward compromise as are America's ambassador and top generals in the field.

Individual Democratic senators have focused on individual questions such as these (for example, Michigan's Carl Levin on torture), but for the caucus and its leader, Harry Reid (Nev.), the key questions are all about history.

This is a great column. Read it all.

Whether the Democrats like it or not, we are at war. Many Democrats voted in favor of the Iraq war, however, are doing everything possible to either excuse their vote or distance themselves from such a vote by arguing that either Bush lied or manipulated intelligence.

If the Democrats were smart, they would provide legitimate alternatives to current administration policies rather than attempting to re-write history. The American public would be interested in alternatives and the Democrats could gain credibility on national security issues.
Unfortunately, the Democrats are either not interested in providing such alternatives or cannot come up with anything other than outright surrender.
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