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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dems and Iraq: Rock Meet Hard Place

As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a planto absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.

The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find their homes occupied, the officials said. Nor has the Iraqi government come forward with a detailed plan to provide aid, shelter and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.

“All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house,” said Col. William Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, speaking at a two-day military briefing on measuring military trends for a small group of American reporters in Baghdad...

But Mike, that isn't good news... Sure it is. This is, after all, the New York Times. If all they can find in the way of bad news is the government's troubles in dealing with refugees. Well, that frankly is good news. Our goals in Iraq were to remove Saddam, install a representative government, and turn Iraq from an enemy into an ally in the GWOT. None of that has anything to do with their refugee situation. That is, with all due respect, entirely the internal problem of the Iraqi government. If the government fails in such tasks as dealing with refugees, well then, the Iraqis will quickly grow as cynical toward their elected officials as we do here. So what. That has nothing to do with any of our goals in the country. The good news is that the New York Times can't actually find any real bad news.

Murtha said he saw signs of progress and continuing chaos during his one day in Iraq. A hospital he visited had been hit by a mortar attack the day before, but more parts of the country are peaceful than before, and Iraqi troops in the Al Anbar province are rooting out the remnants of al-Qaida in their area, he said…

Murtha said that “surge” of troops is working, but it only underscores how poor planning from the Bush administration has hamstrung the war effort. Other examples include the slow response to protecting troops from roadside bombs and a shortage...

Despite the expected caveats, Murtha couldn't deny reality. The surge is working. Violence is down. Iraqis: Sunni, Shia, Kurd, and all others are turning against the insurgency and are working with our side. Even the Daily Kos is starting to admit reality.

As U.S. casualties have continued to drop, many people on the anti-Bush side of the aisle have begun to quietly panic in recent days over this question: "Could George W. Bush and Frederick Kagan have possibly been right about the surge?"

Simply put, the answer is no. Thesurge is not working and GeorgeW. Bush and Frederick Kagan were not right. Despite what rightwing blogs are saying, and despite what conservative observers are noting, the plunge in violence is actually the result of an Iraqi political decision made by and implemented by Iraqis—and the drop has little to do with the "surge"—an infusion of 30,000 troops (which wouldn’t fill a Major League stadium) into Baghdad, a city of six million people...

It may in fact be desperately important for the Kossacks to prove to the world that the improved situation has nothing to do with the surge, however in reality, the arguement is silly, because it is not relevant. First, Bush's legacy will be set by history. Second, in the next election Bush won't be on the ticket.

Several anti war Democrats will be though. An entire Congress that tried to stop the surge before it got started will be. Let's take them one at a time...

Hillary Clinton

I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief...“In any of the metrics that have been referenced in your many hours of testimony, any fair reading of the advantages and disadvantages accruing post-surge, in my view end up on the downside.’’

Barack Obama

I will not support funding for a failed policy. It is long past time for the Republicans to stop filibustering a responsible removal of our troops from Iraq, and for the President to stop threatening to veto anything that is not a blank check for his failed strategy.

"Our troops must not bear the burden for the failure of Iraq's leaders to reconcile, nor should they be kept in Iraq to counter Iran.

Harry Reid

I believe ... that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week...
Nancy Pelosi

No statistic can capture the pain and loss endured by the families of the fallen in Iraq, particularly the children of parents who will not be returning home. Those who have lost loved ones, and those still serving in Iraq and around the world, are in our thoughts and prayers every day as we work to bring an end to the President’s disastrous war.

"While nothing compares to the loss of life in Iraq, the financial costs of the President’s policy are enormous and growing, with $10 billion being spent each and every month of the war. The total cost for the Bush Administration’s Iraq war could rise as high as $2 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office

"With every passing day, the President’s Iraq policy leaves the United States more isolated at a time when we must reclaim our moral leadership and rally the world to fight against terrorism. The choice is between a Democratic plan for responsible redeployment of our troops and the President’s plan to spend another trillion dollars for a 10-year war in Iraq."

So, every Democratic leader is now on record as believing that what is happening would NOT happen. They called a policy failed before they even had time to assess it. They are now stuck between the perverbial rock and perverbial hard place. They must now convince the country that what is real isn't actually real.

That's why they are all fixated on the benchmarks which haven't been met. The Dems are reaching for anything out of Iraq that looks like bad news. It is a very difficult arguement to make though. It is hard to convince the public the surge isn't working because the central government hasn't reached agreement on some pre determined goals. Second, this is becoming more and more General Petreaus' war. Thus, in order to prove failure when there is success, they will ultimately have to show the country more credibility on this matter than General Petreaus (who they incidentally voted unanimously to install less than a year ago).

I pointed out that the Republicans are not in a great position either because they are handcuffed to a war that will likely never be popular, however their perverbial "pickle" is much easier to navigate. Here is how they are currently navigating it.

The 2008 Republican presidential candidates have a simple position on the war in Iraq: They want victory, and they want to talk about something else.

With the notable exception of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), they echo President Bush, and say the United States must remain in Iraq for an unspecified period until the country is stable, and that leaving before then would be a victory for al-Qaeda.

But they usually only say that when asked. The two leading candidates in Iowa, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts governorMittRomney, occasionally give entire speeches without even using the word "Iraq."

Unlike the Democratic candidates, who have competed over who can offer the most precise plan for withdrawing troops as president, the GOP candidates have offered limited visions about how they see Iraq's future, choosing instead to focus on howthey would enlarge the U.S. military to fight the broader war on terrorism.

The Reps want to minimize Iraq as an issue as much as possible. That maybe the appropriate strategy now, however as the war continues to get better, and especially after Petreaus' next report in March, this issue may even turn into a benefit for the Reps. All those quotes will be damning if our casualties fall into the teens or even single digits by the next election after all. For the Reps, the trick is easy. Divorce yourself from the failed strategy that Bush employed (relatively easy since it was Bush's strategy after all, and Bush isn't the first President to start with a failed war strategy, see Lincoln, FDR, Wilson, Washington, etc.) Continue to back the current strategy and contrast that with the defeatist strategy that the Democrats are now married to.

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