"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."


Glenn Reynolds:

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."

I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've been pondering the strategy of the Democrats to position themselves as the party of "I told you so" in next year's Presidential election. They know that, as a matter of fact, they cannot really influence the course of the war in Iraq (except -- as they enthusiastically do – by encouraging the enemy), and so they will play a form of chicken with the President on funding: They'll insist on a black-letter timetable for withdrawal, and when that meets with the promised veto, they'll pass an appropriation amidst more non-binding declamations that the war is lost, that it can't be won, and that the President is simply being stubborn.

[We set aside the fact that, if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi actually were persuaded that nothing can be accomplished in Iraq, they would have a moral and political obligation simply to immediately cut off funding, and bring the troops home this afternoon. But I digress.]

It seems to me that there are only two paths that events in Iraq can follow over the next 12 months.

First, stability and order may be brought to the country at large. There will remain levels of violence that would not be tolerated in London or Cleveland, but that are normal, for example, in Israel. I label this option "success."

Second, the current stalemate, with its chaotic levels of random violence continues, or the level of disorder and terrorist & insurgent attacks actually increases. I label this possibility "failure."

Success, of course, would be a boon to the President and his party. Since he is leaving office in any event, and since responsibility for "the war" is so closely identified with him personally, it is difficult to imagine that failure would have any dramatic effect of the Republican Party much beyond the 2008 elections. A Democrat may be elected president, and Democrat majorities may be increased in Congress, but there will be no devastating rout with existential overtones.

Consider, on the other hand, the Democrats. Should we succeed in Iraq, that event would be fundamentally disastrous for them. They will be seen as whining cowards, who not only got it all wrong, but did everything in their power to avert victory in order to score political points. Americans don't like losers, and they don't like complainers. Recall that Johnson's landslide victory over Goldwater in 1964 (despite abundant punditry to the contrary) resulted in no permanent Democratic majority. Seven of the next ten presidential elections were won by Republicans. One of the Democratic victories was by Jimmy Carter -- a whiny loser who recommended combating high heating bills by wearing a sweater -- who was destroyed in the next election by Ronald Reagan.

But consider the consequences for Democrats should we fail in Iraq. I think it unlikely that the party will be rewarded by the electorate as a font of clear-eyed wisdom. I suspect that large chunks of the American electorate will instead view them as defeatist opportunists who took political advantage of American military and policy defeats. They have no prescription for victory, and propose no alternative to humiliating defeat. They advocate nothing, and oppose everything.

Imagine that you are diagnosed with cancer. Your doctor tells you that the battle is lost, and that you should accept the reality that death is near. He offers care to make you more comfortable, to make you feel as good as possible under the circumstances, but insists that anyone recommending treatment is a fool at best, and a fraud at worst.

Americans have seldom accepted that approach, and they've certainly seldom honored and rewarded the leaders bringing that diagnosis. Most of us would rather go down fighting: Sure, the radiation and chemotherapy might kill us first, but we'll be damned if we'll instead lay in bed and wait to stop breathing.

I think the Democrats have adopted a course that -- whatever the outcome in Iraq -- is unlikely to help them in the long run, and just might lead to permanent minority status should the war succeed.

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