Bitter Defeat, Sweet Surrender
The problem with advocating surrender as a war strategy is that it's all about surrender.
Which presents a dilemma for Harry Reid as, in the wake of defeat upon surrender upon defeat, he vows to fight on. He knows time is short in which to accomplish his goals, in this matter of life and death in Iraq, and he has been strategizing furiously.
This week, Reid launched a major offensive in the form of an all-nighter, designed to force the hand of wavering GOP senators. Here's Reid, compliments of the Washington Post:
"Will the all-night session change any votes? I hope so."
It did. It forced several of them right back into the Bush camp. Here are a couple of the wavering senators, compliments of the New York Times:
"You wonder if they are more interested in politics than dealing with the substance of this," said Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio.
Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, labeled the Democratic plan calling for a troop pullout to begin within 120 days vague and unenforceable.
"If it did pass, it would lead to chaos in Iraq and a dramatic increase in casualties," said Mr. Gregg, who is backing an alternative plan that incorporates the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
What Reid also has failed to grasp is that the latest in a series of futile gestures do not necessarily make him a brave warrior battling against the odds. In the eyes of the anti-war camp, that would take a more extreme futile gesture: impeachment proceedings. Instead, it has underscored the fundamental weakness of the Democratic leadership. Not only does it lack the mandate it claims, it also lacks the courage of its convictions.
"It was a smoke screen. Senators talk all night of ending the war and bringing our troops home, and they still give Bush billions."
There was a successful vote Tuesday, in the runup to that all-nighter. It was 94-3, on this Republican resolution:
To express the sense of the Senate that it is in the national security interest of the United States that Iraq not become a failed state and a safe haven for terrorists.
Reid's take on his all-night debacle?
"We spent two days showing America that we're not going to back down, that we're going to continue to fight, that if President Bush and his allies continue to refuse to budge, we will continue to show them the way."
He followed through by pulling the defense authorization bill from the floor, at a time when U.S. troops are in the field.
The defense bill will be taken up in the House this weak. News reports suggest the leadership, bruised repeatedly in earlier fights, there is falling back. No withdrawal amendments, though there may be more Murtha-inspired sniping: the training requirements and deployment restrictions, a bid to pull the plug on Guantanamo.
That suggests its up to Reid to be the standard bearer, to continue to fight. And that terrible day, September 15, is coming fast. And the evidence keeps mounting that the United States and Iraqi forces have the terrorists on the run in Iraq, that the Iraqi people want us to stay and are helping us fight. Instead of fighting Bush, the Democrats will be in the position of fighting the generals, and the facts on the ground.
The anti-war camp may well retain some leverage in the political arena. The Iraqi government's political progress remains a matter of fits and starts. This nascent democracy of a politically traumatized, ethnically divided, violence-wracked state is having a hard time resolving its differences, and the anti-war camp has cited this as a prime reason to abandon 25 million Iraqis to bloody chaos and genocide.
But as promising an argument as it may be, the Democratic leadership of the Congress of the United States is not in much of a position to throw stones in that department.
Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership may want to consider whether it is in their interest to argue that the inability of politicians to see past their own narrow agendas and make progress on matters of life and death should be a barrier to continued support.
For the party that considers surrender a viable war policy, it may be time instead to begin charting a course to honorable surrender.