The left-wing blogosphere, including my colleague Paul Hamilton, are lamenting the "cave in" on the part of the Democrats in the debate over funding for the war in Iraq while right-wingers like Kim Priestap are popping the corks on their champagne bottles. In this piece, I hope to explain to you why both are wrong.
The Republican strategy in the debate over funding the Iraq War has been clear from the very beginning. Their goal was to portray the Democrats as attempting to "cut off" weapons and supplies for the troops in the field. They wanted to paint a picture for the American people of our soldiers in the midst of a vicious firefight somewhere in Anbar literally running out of bullets in the middle of the battle because Nancy Pelosi refused to give them the means to defend themselves. The idea that this would happen was of course completely nonsensical, but it was effective in raising the question of how we should go about conducting a withdrawal from Iraq.
Contrary to all of the breathless hyperventilating on the right, the first Iraq War funding bill did not come close to mandating a "surrender" or complete withdrawal of the troops. It called only for a limitation of their combat role to combating "Al Qaeda" forces in Iraq, training Iraqi troops, and securing the US embassy. Last I checked, there is no official registry of Al Qaeda members and that provision could have easily been interpreted to include virtually all Sunni insurgents in Anbar and Baghdad. Bush could have signed that bill and then interpreted it in a way that would have allowed the majority of our troops in Iraq to remain in place for an indefinite period of time, but it clearly would have signaled the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq.
The Democratic proposal was a responsible attempt to begin the process of an orderly withdrawal that would significantly reduce, but not completely eliminate, our presence in Iraq. The plan they proposed is, in fact, the only realistic way we are ever going to see a withdrawal executed. A sudden pullout of all of our troops from everywhere in Iraq would be extraordinarily difficult to manage from a tactical and logistics standpoint. The only sensible approach is to conduct a gradual reduction over a span of 12 months or so while making every effort to prop up the faltering Iraqi government so that it doesn't entirely collapse. Our troops won't be able to withdraw easily if all hell breaks loose in Iraq. We shouldn't let our haste to get out of Iraq prevent us from trying to salvage what we can from the situation and do our best to preserve whatever law and order remains in that country as we exit.
But Bush refused to go along with the Democratic plan for a responsible withdrawal and orderly exit. Once again, and in defiance of the will of the American people he will continue to escalate our presence in Iraq and sink us deeper into the quagmire of that country's civil war. Rather than work with the Democrats in formulating a sensible withdrawal strategy, the President has again decided to go it alone, guaranteeing that this will continue to remain "Bush's War" for the foreseeable future. The Republicans will continue to face the unenviable task of offering unconditional support to a deeply unpopular President waging a deeply unpopular war against the expressed will of the American people.
In September, General Petraeus will come back to Washington to deliver a progress report on the situation in Iraq. I predict (really going out on a limb here) that the situation will be largely unchanged from what it is today, and what it was in 2006, 2005 and 2004. Bush and the Republicans will, of course, claim that significant "progress" has been made and that we just need to give the strategy more time. We will have the debate all over again, and the Republicans will again be forced to continue digging their electoral grave over the Iraq War.
To those on the left who are furious with the Democrats right now I ask the question: do you believe that a President John Kerry would have signed the first Iraq War funding bill that the Democrats sent to the President with a timeline for withdrawal? Of course he would have. We, the American people, have only ourselves to blame for failing to unseat Bush in 2004 or elect veto-proof majorities of Democrats in both houses of Congress. It's clear what we have to do. So let's do it instead of attacking the Democrats in Congress who want to bring this war to a responsible conclusion.
The stage is now set for the 2008 elections. Those elections will be an identical rerun of the 2006 elections. If you want to end this war there is still only one game in town: electing Democrats. The cowardly Republicans will continue to force this war down the throat of an unwilling American public indefinitely. They don't have the political courage to admit they were wrong on Iraq and organize an orderly withdrawal. Instead, they want to continue pretending they were right, play out the clock on the Bush Presidency and then dump the whole disaster on the next (and Democratic) President so they can blame the Democrats for "losing" Iraq.
So if you're angry about the Democrat's failure to end the war, turn that anger where it belongs: on the Republicans. Work to unseat Republican representatives and Senators in your state so we can obtain a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress. Volunteer for one of the Democratic Presidential candidates and help them to get them elected in 2008. Do whatever you can to crush the Republican Party and dump its pulverized bones on the ash heap of history.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!