Are the Democrats evolving?
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.