The only thing they can't imagine is success in Iraq.
Thursday, February 3, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
Every so often, an American politician takes an unpopular stand for the sake of what's right: Think of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. Frequently, he takes an unprincipled stand for the sake of what's popular: Take Richard Nixon's price controls. Sometimes, even, he does what's right, which also happens to be popular: Ronald Reagan's bombing of Libya.
Only in the rarest of instances, however, do politicians take positions that are both unpopular and unprincipled. That is where the Democratic Party leadership finds itself today on Iraq.
On Sunday, some eight million Iraqi citizens risked their lives to participate in parliamentary elections--as vivid and moving a demonstration of democratic ideals in action as we've seen in our lifetimes. Whereupon Senate Democrats Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry took to the airwaves to explain that it was no big deal and that it was time to start casting about for an "exit strategy."
"No one in the United States should try to overhype this election.... It's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't and doesn't vote."
"While the elections are a step forward, they are not a cure for the growing violence and resentment of the perception of American occupation. . . . The best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no long-term designs on their country is for the Administration to withdraw some troops now . . ."
Minority Leader Reid:
"We need an exit strategy so that we know what victory is and how we can get there. . . . Iraq is clearly important, but there are so many bigger threats to our national security . . ."
So what is the Democratic Party's message on this inspiring exercise in Iraqi self-determination? First, that the election's legitimacy is questionable. Second, that its effects will be minor. Third, that America's presence in Iraq is doing more harm than good by generating terrorism and anti-Americanism where none previously existed. Fourth, that the U.S. has better things to do. Fifth, that American sacrifices in Iraq are best redeemed not by victory, but by the earliest feasible departure.
As a matter of policy, this is a manifesto for irresponsibility. Just as the postponement of elections would have been a gift to the insurgents, a timetable for withdrawal now would amount to a concession of defeat. The Iraqis certainly know this, with interim President (and Sunni Arab) Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar saying Tuesday that it is "complete nonsense to ask the troops to leave in this chaos and this vacuum of power." The claim that the U.S. has become a force for occupation only validates the Al-Jazeera hypothesis that the terrorists are engaging in a legitimate exercise in "resistance."
What is more astonishing, however, is the Democrats' political tone-deafness. In their indictment of Administration policy, the Senators always take care to add a few words of tribute to the American soldier. But what's the point of praising his courage when only a fool would want to be the last man to die for a mistake?
Today, the Democratic Party has put itself in the awkward position of hoping to gain political advantage in the 2006 elections as a result of American wartime reverses, just as some House Republicans did during the war in Kosovo (they were saved by their Senate betters). This is not a place any political party should wish to be.
We understand that it is in the nature of the party of opposition to oppose. But there's no law in politics that says opposition has to be blind. Following the Iraqi election, Senator Hillary Clinton offered that "we have to salute the courage and bravery of those who are risking their lives to vote and those brave Iraqi and American soldiers fighting to protect their right to vote. They are facing terrorists who have declared war on democracy itself and made voting a life-and-death process." Last we checked, nobody had accused Mrs. Clinton of being a Republican.
At the onset of the Cold War, and despite opposition from the isolationist wing of their party, Arthur Vandenberg and other Republican Senators worked with Democratic President Harry Truman to forge the containment strategy against Communism. Where is today's Democratic Vandenberg?