Sometimes I feel as if I must be one of the few people left in America who is not a military expert.
The biggest flurry of amateur military pronouncements occurred just before Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress on the situation in Iraq. Many Democrats publicly dismissed what he said before he said it, and some implied that he was a liar before he opened his mouth.
The real problem is that many Democrats have bet the rent money on an American defeat in Iraq, and without that defeat they could find themselves in big trouble in the 2008 elections.
Politically, the Democrats are caught between Iraq and a hard place. Their left-wing base has been angrily pressing them to cut off financial support for the war in Iraq but Congressional Democrats dare not outrage the rest of the country by doing that.
Democrats have already tried to sabotage the war effort, with arbitrary timetables for withdrawal and financing the war for only short periods, so that President Bush would be forced to pull out American troops and could then be blamed for the defeat. But that hasn’t worked either because not enough Democrats in Congress are willing to risk political suicide by obstructing the military in ways too blatant to pass muster with the public.
The next best thing politically for the Democrats is to say that the situation is hopeless. The last thing they need to hear is that there is now some progress in Iraq.
Not only is Petraeus reporting progress, but so have a couple of Brookings Institution scholars who have studied the situation in Iraq – liberal Democrats who had worked for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.
Progress does not mean inevitable victory, much less quick victory. Nor is it easy to define what “victory” would mean in the messy circumstances of Iraq.
There has never been a moment when anyone in Congress, the White House, or the military has ever advocated anything other than getting out when the time is right. Nobody thinks American troops have to stay in Iraq until the last terrorist is killed or driven out of the country. It is a question of reaching the point where the Iraqis themselves can deal with the terrorist and other problems of their country without American troops.