A Bleak Summer's Trip into Fall
Who doesn't dread the end of summer? For children, it's like a small adulthood ... the sudden departure of freedom, and onset of responsibility. The arrival of inescapable facts such as school, homework, teachers. For adults, its back to work, bills due.
August with September looming can be as bleak as Sunday afternoon with the prospect of Monday casting its shadow.
So consider the plight of Democrats and the anti-war camp who have fought, ineffectively and really it would seem half-heartedly, but as best as they could manage to end the war in Iraq.
They stayed up late, trying to forestall the dread date, Sept. 15, and the unwelcome truths it will bring, declaring failure on their own playroom terms in July. That failed. They tried again just before bleak August and its false vacation bliss arrived. But failed. All the while, the facts they tried deny kept mounting, news received like a classroom assignment in the mail that informs you, yes, in fact, you're out of luck, you will have that tough, unpleasant teacher with the screwed up face. The one who demands results. The one who expects you to be prompt, with your shirt tucked in, with your pants pulled up, with your hat off indoors, with your homework done. What's that you're chewing? Did you bring enough for everyone? The one who says, you are here to learn, young man.
The inescapable fact is that we are winning in Iraq. The media points to car bombs as signs of disaster, doing its best to limit reports on progress in Anbar and Baquba to mere lip service. But there has been a shift in tone as they are increasingly forced to recognize certain realities. If you've been read what the milbloggers and embedded bloggers who are there say, then you know what is happening. The people are with us, with their government, for themselves. Al Qaeda is on the run. The Shiite militias have been divided, and they are the next order of business. Operations are underway, and they are bearing fruit.
War critics, in and out of Congress, are beginning to change their tune. Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollard see progress in Iraq and say it cannot be abandoned now. Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Bob Casey, Jack Reed and Carl Levin reportedly are willing to admit military progress on the ground in Iraq.
Anti-war candidates are moderating and seeking to explain their positions. As the New York Times reported, Edwards, Clinton and Obama all have disengagement plans that would leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years, with troops operating in and around Iraq indefinitely.
The talk that the anti-war camp insisted must take place with Iran? That's happening. Has it stopped the flow of Iranian arms and support to terrorists in Iraq? No. That still must be countered by deadly force.
But what these developments suggest, as September and its confrontation with Gen. Petraeus looms, is the possibility that a practical discussion on the way forward in Iraq may be possible this fall, and that sheepish Democrats may be willing to put their insistence on precipitous withdrawal behind them... the exhortations of the New York Times editorial board to embrace genocide notwithstanding.
But not everyone in Congress, and certainly not in the broader anti-war movement, has the maturity to stomach a political stand-down in a faceoff with teacher.
The congressional Democratic leadership's spitball shooters have one piece of ammo left as they head into class this fall. Iraqi politicians, in their effort to lead a nascent democracy in a politically and psychologically traumatized, ethnically divided nation, have failed to meet the goals set for them so far. They are fractious, threatening and executing boycotts as they attempt to strong-arm their positions through.
There is a bitter, entirely unsubtle irony in the anti-war camp's seizing on that point. Would they condemn a people to genocide because their politicians are self-interested, angling politicians? Well, I suppose. After all, in pursuit of their own domestic political agenda, the Democratic leadership in Congress is willing to throw away the sacrifice of American soldiers and condemn this nation and the world it leads to humiliation and secondary status, allowing terrorism and pariah states to flourish. So why should we expect them to give a damn about 25 million Iraqis half a world away, and millions more in the surrounding region?
It has to be a bleak August, when the anti-war faction has to think about that "What I did on My Summer Vacation" essay and realize it is a dreary list of failures and blanks. It has to be a dread September arriving, with its threatened onset of adult responsibilities.