Whoops! "As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq," the New York Times reports. Having bet against American success in the hope of benefiting from failure, they are now hedging, "acknowledging that success, trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy."
The trouble is, many Democratic voters still want America to lose in Iraq. As the Times notes:
This is a delicate matter. By saying the effects of the troop escalation have not led to a healthier political environment, the candidates are tacitly acknowledging that the additional troops have, in fact, made a difference on the ground--a viewpoint many Democratic voters might not embrace.
"Our troops are the best in the world; if you increase their numbers they are going to make a difference," Mrs. Clinton said in a statement after her aides were asked about her views on the ebbing violence in Baghdad.
"The fundamental point here is that the purpose of the surge was to create space for political reconciliation and that has not happened, and there is no indication that it is going to happen, or that the Iraqis will meet the political benchmarks," she said. "We need to stop refereeing their civil war and start getting out of it."
Mrs. Clinton has never had any objection in principle to the Iraq war, which she voted to authorize five years ago. Yet for reasons of rank political opportunism, she now stands for the proposition that America must not win. Is this the kind of leadership America needs in a commander in chief?
Meanwhile, Reuters reports the Dems have found a military spokesman for their Iraq policy, such as it is:
The general who led U.S. forces in Iraq after the invasion . . . spoke out for Democrats on Saturday, backing legislation aimed at withdrawing American troops.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, in the Democratic weekly radio address, acknowledged that Bush's escalation strategy this year had improved security in Iraq. But he said Iraqi political leaders had failed to make "hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country." . . .
"It is well past time to adopt a new approach in Iraq that will improve chances to produce stability in the Middle East," he said. "I urge our political leaders to put aside partisan considerations and unite to lessen the burden our troops and their families have been under for nearly five years."
Apparently it didn't occur to Sanchez that the Democratic weekly radio address isn't the best venue to urge people to "put aside partisan considerations."
Reuters notes that Sanchez "commanded the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq from June 2003 until July 2004 as the anti-U.S. insurgency took hold," that he "blamed the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal for wrecking his career," and that last month (as we also noted) he "blamed the Bush administration for a 'catastrophic failure' in leadership of the war."
Whatever the merits of his arguments, Sanchez is far from a disinterested party. He is seeking to avoid blame for the failures in Iraq under his command. Which, come to think of it, makes him quite the fitting spokesman for the Democrats.
Success Is Not an Option--II
Last week, as we noted, the New York Times ran a major front-page story on the improving security situation in Baghdad. This past weekend, a new bombing prompted the paper to walk the story back somewhat:
As Baghdad's relative lull in violence had extended from weeks into months, Sunnis and Shiites alike made the calculation--one shared by this reporter--that the Ghazil market was safe enough to risk walking around on a sunny Friday.
It was. But one week later, the market in the shadow of the Mosque of the Caliphs was a scene of carnage, a cruel reminder that the decline in violence in this city is relative and may not last.
But a Reuters account gives good reason to think that this sort of violence is unlikely to last:
U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said it appeared the Shi'ite militants wanted Friday's bombing, the deadliest attack in Baghdad in two months after a lull in violence, to look like the work of al Qaeda.
Most big bombings that cause mass casualties are blamed on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda. . . .
Smith said those behind the market attack intended to make it look like the work of al Qaeda in order to convince Iraqis in the area they needed the protection of Shi'ite militias.
If Shiite militias are seeking Shiite popular support, wantonly murdering Shiite civilians seems a certain recipe for failure, and thus it was naive of the Times to see this attack as a portent of worse to come.
The Times did follow up the next day with a report quoting Adm. Smith:
"The group's purpose was to make it appear Al Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for the attack," Admiral Smith said, using the military's name for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. "The special groups' aim was to demonstrate to Baghdadis the need for militia groups to continue providing for their security."
"Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," of course, is the Times's name for what everyone else calls al Qaeda in Iraq--everyone, that is, except Reuters (!), which simply calls it al Qaeda.What to do...what to do