Friday, August 10, 2007

Democrats Need to Act beyond Defeatism on Iraq

In this post, I am going to talk about an article, entitled “Perceptions on Iraq War Are Starting to Shift” in Creators Syndicate on August 6, written by Michael Barone, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Barone criticizes some Democratic senators and representatives defeatists, and questions their election strategy to make use of hardships in Iraq for their advantage. Let me review the article.

When Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both Senior Fellows at the Brookings Institution, contributed an article “Stability in Iraq: A War We Just Might Win” to the New York Times on July 30, antiwar Democrats in Congress were perplexed. O’Hanlon and Pollack criticized “the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq” before, but they admit progress in defeating insurgents there.

Democrats have been attacking the Bush administration, because the administration failed in adjusting itself to changing realities in Iraq. Barone says that the battle against Al Qaeda suicide bomber has changed into full-fledged sectarian warfare. President Bush and his staff decided a surge as advised by Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at AEI. Since then, reality has changed positively to US forces.

Michael Barone mentions a freshman Representative Nancy Boyda of Kansas, who has just won the seat in the last midterm election as an example of defeatist Democrat. She has been making use of mishandling of Iraq to denounce the Bush administration. But she was upset when retired General Jack Keane described positive developments in Iraq at the congressional hearing.

As public opinion shifts in accordance with war progress, Barone points out Democrats’ dilemma to choose between solid supporters who want quick retreat and the majority who want victory.

I would like mention another article on defeatists, "’Orderly Humiliation’ and ‘The New Strategy in Iraq’" in Weekly Standard on July 12. In this joint essay with Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, Director of the Institute for the Study of War, AEI Resident Fellow Thomas Donnelly talks of the axis composed of Democrat Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, Republican Senator Richard Lugar, and a new Washington think tank, named the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Officially, CNAS was launched on July 27, with keynote addresses by Hilary Clinton and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Both Senators are vocal critics to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

According to Donnelly, CNAS is expected to provide intellectual support for 2008 Clinton campaign. This think tank recommends early withdrawal from Iraq, and full-fledged talk with influential neighbors to Iraq, notably, Iran and Syria. Thomas Donnelly criticizes such arguments, and insists that American withdrawal will not increase leverage on Iraqi factions and simply allow threats posed by Iran and Syria grow bigger.

I recommend both AEI articles to understand interconnection between Iraq issues and political developments toward 2008 presidential election. Things are unpredictable. Interactions between politicians and think tanks need more attention. Also, it is worth watching how such axes ―― whether pro or con to the war ―― manage to adjust themselves to the reality, as things associated with the war change rapidly.