F'in A Right
Kevin Drum, who I sometimes feel resides in the mushy middle of progressive politics, comes out firing with this one:
real way that involves the leadership of George Bush and his staff, not some fantasy scenario in which he suddenly turns into the reincarnation of FDR — or you don't. And the only reason to stay in Iraq is if you think we can win.
So: if you do believe we can win in Iraq, let's hear what you mean by "win" and how you think we can do it, and let's hear it in clear and compelling declarative sentences. "Stay the course" isn't enough. What Bush is doing now obviously isn't working, so what would you do that's significantly different?
Conversely, if you don't believe we can win in Iraq, and you're only suggesting we stay there because you can't stand the thought of "looking weak," then your moral compass needs some serious adjustment.
My mind is not irreversibly made up on this. But no one, neither Democrat nor Republican, has presented a convincing plan for winning in Iraq under the present circumstances. The insurgency is not going to give up, the Army doesn't seem to have any kind of consistent commitment to using counterinsurgency techniques against it, we don't know for sure that they'd work anyway, and let's face it: the track record of major powers beating large-scale overseas insurgencies is close to zero in the past half century. So what's the plan?
It's time for Democrats to shit or get off the pot. You can't have it both ways; you can't bash Bush for his conduct of the war, and then say "but we can't leave," and then go mum on the scenario of how we can stay and do better. Russ Feingold has broken the cherry on a timed withdrawal scenario (Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel agrees with him). Others must follow or explain exactly what they propose we do.
I've said for a long time that this can't end well, that Iraq's descent into chaos and civil war is increasingly inextricable. Any scenario from here on is the "least worst," and that should be made plain (as well as why we've passed the good options, due to mismanagement and incompetence). But if we "can't leave,' for God's sakes tell me why, and how we can make it better.
All of this is theoretical, as the Bush Administration has proven particularly impervious to public opinion, bad news, and pressure from the left. We'll be in Iraq in some capacity until 2008. Digby has a fascinating post about the politics of this thing, and how hawkish and dovish Democrats are squeezing Bush from both sides, leaving him with nothing but "stay the course," which proves empty among the constant stream of bad news. But Bush isn't running in 2008. It's early yet, but whoever's getting my vote has to give me a few answers. No more of this "we can't leave, but he's not doing it right, and I would better, but I can't tell you exactly how" crap. Kerry was actually a little forthcoming with his reasons (most of which included begging Europe to take over). The Biden-Bayh-"sensible war Democrat" wing has some answers to give.
And for God's sake, let's stop as Democrats caring about how our decisions will look, and start caring about what they will do. And explain them that way, forcefully. That's the only way to undercut Republican smear charges.