A Shot Across the Bows

As someone who follows the war in Iraq closely it has surprised me that the Democratic candidates are still very negative about the surge and still refuse to acknowledge the progress General Petraeus has made even when put on the spot during the New Hampshire debates. It is unremarkable that pro Republican sites have been calling attention to it, but much more significantly the Washington Post recently printed this outspoken editorial, See No Good. It attacks Obama and Hillary directly and by name and is an editorial representing the newspaper’s position not just that of a single pundit in an op-ed. They put the question as bluntly as any Republican blogger would – “Can they concede that the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq has worked?” And they continue in the same vein listing the positives: the “major blow” against al Quaeda, the “receding” prospects of a civil war, and the “second lowest” monthly military casualties of the war. They strengthen their argument by making it clear that they are not attacking from a pro surge, much less a pro Bush perspective:

A reasonable response to these facts might involve an acknowledgment of the remarkable military progress, coupled with a reminder that the final goal of the surge set out by President Bush — political accords among Iraq’s competing factions — has not been reached. (That happens to be our reaction to a campaign that we greeted with skepticism a year ago.) It also would involve a willingness by the candidates to reconsider their long-standing plans to carry out a rapid withdrawal of remaining U.S. forces in Iraq as soon as they become president — a step that would almost certainly reverse the progress that has been made.

Indeed. It is a perfect opportunity to reconsider those withdrawal plans with plenty of room left to debate Iraqi political progress or lack of it. Continuing to insist that they will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is not good for them and it is not good for the country. It is good for the Republicans and even for Bush, and probably a key reason why the president enjoys a 35% approval rating while the Congress enjoys a 25% approval rating. I think that is exactly why the WAPO as a liberal newspaper is putting such a clear shot across Hillary and Obama’s bows. There is no doubt about their target – it is Obama and Hillary – not Bush who only gets a conditional rebuke:

Even more disturbing was the refusal of the Democrats to adjust their
policies to the changed situation. Ms. Clinton said she didn’t “see any
reason why [U.S. troops] should remain beyond, you know, today” and
outlined a withdrawal plan premised on a defeat comparable to Vietnam
(“We have to figure out what we’re going to do with the 100,000-plus
American civilians who are there” and “all the Iraqis who sided with
us. . . . Are we going to leave them?”). Mr. Obama stuck to his plan
for “a phased redeployment”; if his scheme of a year ago had been
followed, almost all American troops would be out by this March.

Ms. Clinton made one strong point: Even the relatively low number of “23
Americans dying in December is . . . unacceptable” if there is no clear
prospect of eventual success. So far, the Bush administration has been
slow and feckless in pressing for the national political accords it
says are required for a winning outcome. If these are unachievable in
the near term, the administration owes the country a revised strategy.
But any U.S. policy ought to be aimed at consolidating the gains of the
past year and ensuring that neither al-Qaeda nor sectarian war make a
comeback. So far, the Democratic candidates have refused even to
consider that challenge.

It’s rising February boys and girls and we all know you have to move to the center on the issue if you want to get elected. General Petraeus and his hard working heroes have given you the perfect political cover to make that move – wait much longer and no one will believe you when you suddenly change you tune.

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