Democrats, Change The Narrative On Iraq
Suppose for the sake of argument the Democrats were shrewd enough to see an opening on Iraq, one that allowed for them to agree that the surge has at least temporarily worked along with local Iraqi nationalism to improve security in various parts of the country. Suppose the Democrats accepted that a window now exists for Iraq to seize its future, if only the central government and its regional neighbors stepped in to take over from here. Could the Democrats and their candidates get over the pessimistic rhetoric long enough to argue that the military’s success, albeit temporary, now allows for us to redeploy while Iraqi security forces and the country’s neighbors step into the breach over the next 12 months?
To fight such a shift, the White House and GOP would be forced to continue with their “any talk of withdrawal is talk of defeat” baloney, an argument that has been rejected by a large majority of the country. More importantly, by forcing the debate to a choice between accepting partial victory now to fight more important battles elsewhere, and the GOP’s plan to stay forever, Democrats and their candidates can make the argument Anne Applebaum makes in Tuesday’s Post, namely that we have more important things to deal with around the world that require our immediate attention instead of staying locked into a permanent occupation in Iraq.
America is ready to declare any victory possible in Iraq and move in a new direction to restore our alliances and relationships around the world. Unlike the GOP candidates, who are all trapped by their base into a permanent occupation of Iraq, Democrats have the political freedom to make this forward-looking argument that we need to refocus back to the original goal: stopping Al Qaeda and building regional security. To do that, any of the top Democratic candidates can tout the military’s success and the tentative improvements inside Iraq as an opening to do what we should have done years ago: let the Iraqis and their neighbors now assume responsibility for their futures, while our relationship with them matures to one of real partnership in the defeat of Islamic extremism and Al Qaeda.
Up until now, the Democrats have proven to be an easy, stationary target for the GOP to shoot at in the war debate, because Democrats don't make the connection for voters between a withdrawal and our national interests. This allows the GOP to easily paint all talk of a withdrawal as defeatism in the war against terrorists, when in fact Democrats should be linking a redeployment with Iraqi self-determination, regional self-responsibility, and American self-interest.