Are the Democrats evolv­ing?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Af­ter months of heap­ing scorn on the very idea that a new mil­i­tary strat­egy could achieve re­sults in Iraq, a grow­ing num­ber of an­ti­war crit­ics now ac­knowl­edge that the very idea they con­temp­tu­ously dis­missed is achiev­ing re­sults af­ter all. Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Levin said Aug. 20 af­ter visit­ing Iraq that he saw “cred­i­ble and pos­i­tive re­sults” from the troop re­in­force­ments. He added that vis­its to bases in Bagh­dad and Mo­sul showed that the mil­i­tary as­pects of the troop “surge” have made progress in re­duc­ing vi­o­lence and giv­ing Iraqi po­lit­i­cal lead­ers time to work for po­lit­i­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Mr. Levin and the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Armed Ser­vices panel, Sen. John Warner (an­other critic of the troop “surge”) is­sued a state­ment that said they were “also en­cour­aged by con­tin­u­ing pos­i­tive re­sults — in al An­bar Prov­ince, from the re­cent de­ci­sions of some of the Sunni tribes to turn against al Qaeda and co­op­er­ate with coali­tion force ef­forts to kill or cap­ture its ad­her­ents.” Demo­cratic Rep. Brian Baird of Wash­ing­ton, who just re­turned from Iraq, now says he be­lieves U.S. forces should re­main in the coun­try as long as nec­es­sary to en­sure sta­bil­ity and that he will no longer vote for bind­ing dead­lines to with­draw troops. Demo­cratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Bob Casey, who also just re­turned, have con­ceded that U.S. forces are mak­ing progress mil­i­tar­ily.

While mil­i­tary suc­cess in un­de­ni­able, it’s ob­vi­ous that the po­lit­i­cal front is stale- mated on is­sues like de-Ba’athi­fi­ca­tion and find­ing a for­mula to dis­trib­ute oil rev­enues. There also seems to be a grow­ing con­sen­sus in Wash­ing­ton that a large part of the prob­lem is the in­ef­fec­tual lead­er­ship of Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki. Messrs. Levin and Durbin, for ex­am­ple, have made the very plau­si­ble case that a prime min­is­ter with bet­ter lead­er­ship abil­i­ties would have a bet­ter chance of achiev­ing the po­lit­i­cal com­pro­mises nec­es­sary to com­ple­ment the mil­i­tary suc­cesses. (In point of fact, the ed­i­tor of this page has made much the same point about Mr. Ma­liki in his col­umn and on television in re­cent months.) Still, we wel­come the Democrats’ in­creas­ing will­ing­ness to ac­knowl­edge the new mil­i­tary re­al­ity in Iraq.

But any evo­lu­tion in main­stream Demo­cratic Party think­ing must not blind us to the re­al­ity that many of th­ese same politi­cians have shame­lessly dem­a­gogued the is­sue — poor­mouthing the war ef­fort in or­der to score some cheap po­lit­i­cal points against Pres­i­dent. Bush at the ex­pense of our troops. In that vein, Mr. Durbin told The Wash­ing­ton Post that if Mr. Ma­liki were to leave of­fice, the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship might feel com­pelled to stop crit­i­ciz­ing the war in or­der to give a new Iraqi gov­ern­ment a fight­ing chance to per­form.

Per­ish the thought that a new, func­tion­ing Iraqi gov­ern­ment and po­lit­i­cal sys­tem might some­how get in the way of the Se­nate ma­jor­ity whip’s an­ti­war po­lit­i­cal agenda.

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