As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, November 05, 2007

This Is Really Unbelievable

And it's happening with almost no media attention.

Despite their rhetoric about not wanting to hand President Bush another “blank check” for the Iraq War, Democrats appear poised to give him exactly that — enough cash to keep the war going full steam for as long as six months, no strings attached.

Democratic leaders continue to fear GOP attacks that cutting off or slowing funds would hurt the troops, despite anger among the Democratic base over the party’s failure to use Congress’ power of the purse to end the war.

We've gone from "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" to "Democratic leaders continue to fear GOP attacks." What's that line about how society is always evolving?

The worst thing about this quiet, craven capitulation is that is doesn't even make the effort to provide the public with any context for what is happening in Iraq, ceding the entire landscape to the "we're winning" reverse-Chicken Littles who constantly maintain that the sky is not falling. The truth is that the surge is not meeting its stated goal of bringing factions together for a political reconciliation, and any more stalling there could lead to the Sunnis rejoining the insurgency, according to a top Army Colonel.

Stanton believes Shiite reluctance to bring the so-called Concerned Local Citizens into the formal security forces and to hold provincial elections -- expected to benefit the Sunnis, who boycotted the last round of provincial voting in 2005 -- might guarantee precisely the result that the Shiites fear. "How long before all of these people trying to reconcile get discouraged at the continuous rebuff and come up with their own Plan B?" he asked. Plan B, Stanton assessed, might be either formal secession or to "pick up insurgency again." When I asked what the timetable might be for the Sunni Concerned Local Citizens to go to Plan B, he replied, "God, man, if I knew that, I'd be so much happier with my job than I am right now."

So the situation is still fragile, and made worse by the looming presence of an occupying force with a massive embassy, which at least gives the appearance of controlling the strings of the government. Some metrics for providing basic services are up, and that's great, but the question remains whether or not it's too late. And what's completely uncertain is whether this new strategy is just putting a lid on violence that will blow over once we run out of troops, or... or what? Nobody can articulate what the hell it IS doing.

The problem for these Democratic leaders is that, by saying nothing, their arguments grow stale in a very fluid situation.

Ezra Klein recently reminded me of Fafblog's classic "Fafblog Interviews the Democratic Party" post which, in turn, was a reminder of how lame 2005-vintage Democratic thinking about Iraq was. Over time, though, that thinking improved, which is a good thing. Nevertheless, Iraq is a constantly changing situation and when in early 2007 Bush rejected the verdict of the American people and the Baker-Hamilton Commission, much of the previous wave of proposals became irrelevant to the future debate.

But unlike on other issues, neither Hillary Clinton nor any of her rivals could afford to wait before talking about their plans for Iraq. As a result, the frontrunner has a stated position on Iraq today that's really based on the year-old Baker-Hamilton proposals. Worse, because nobody wants to be seen as "flip-flopping" and because everyone knows you tack left during the primaries and then right during the general election, she's all-but-guaranteed to have a platform in October 2008 that was really designed for the circumstances of December 2006 and doesn't reflect either the evolving situation on the ground or the evolving thinking of policy people, including some of her own advisors.

It's worse for the Democrats in Congress, who've been silent long enough that the "surge is working" myth has become embedded at least in media retellings of the war, making it harder to catch up to where we actually are on the battlefield.

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