Don't Make Too Much Of Yesterday's Empty Votes By The Senate On Iraq
I know that much ink has been used in the last 24 hours to hype the fact that the GOP Senate passed resolutions expressing Senate policy that, despite not having tougher Democratic language in it, at least contained requirements that the Bush Administration report to Congress on its efforts to transition Iraq to the Iraqis next year and its plans and goals in Iraq, as well as clarifying detainee rights. Frankly, much of what happened yesterday was a fig leaf, because none of this is in a defense authorization bill, and none of this will make it through the House. Until these elements are contained in a defense authorization bill that goes to Bush from both houses, yesterday’s actions mean little.
As usual, public opinion on the war is ahead of the Beltway, as Gallup reports that 6 in 10 now say the war was a mistake, and 52% think the United States should withdraw its troops within 12 months at the latest. But the public’s views are irrelevant at this point, as we are still twelve months out from the 2006 elections. Vulnerable GOP incumbents will not stray from the White House this early, and will hold off breaking from Bush until the months just before the midterms, no matter how many more troops are killed in Iraq. And on that note, five more were killed today, after six were killed yesterday.
How much longer will the GOP incumbents next year be able to ignore public opinion to stick with Bush? I suspect that they will find it very difficult to maintain their blind support for another 10-12 months, especially as more and more stories get out about how the Shia are brutalizing their Sunni countrymen while our security umbrella remains, and as the white phosphorus stories get more traction. Democrats can start talking now about getting out between now and the end of 2007, as some are calling a strategic redeployment. But more importantly, and to give the new government a chance, we need to immediately get the Iraqis to take over for our forces in urban areas where possible, so that our forces can redeploy in 2006 to seal off the borders, as Rummy should have done years ago. All of these efforts unfortunately will be compromised, because the man that Bush let get away in 2002 is staying one step ahead of us.