Friday, January 12, 2007

Democrats Criticize Bush Troop Plan But Take No Responsibility

This Wall Street Journal editorial exposes Democratic Party hypocrisy on Iraq policy. The Journal editors note that throughout the war Democratic leaders have criticized the administration for not having enought troops in Iraq, relying on former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki's estimate that the deployment needed 500,000 troops. Now that President Bush has shifted to a new strategy that includes an increase in force levels, Democrats are saying the new plan has already been tried, and more call-ups now will weaken American military capability:

Ostensibly, the Democratic complaint is that the Administration has failed to come up with a new strategy for Iraq. In fact, Mr. Bush says he is offering a qualitative departure from what the U.S. has attempted before. (See "Mission Baghdad.") The real question is whether the Democrats are prepared to act like a responsible opposition now that they control both houses of Congress, in contrast to the last four years of partisan minority sniping.

On the evidence of the past week, the answer is no. On Tuesday, the Democrats announced they would hold a symbolic, nonbinding vote on the troop increase, without so much as hearing what the President has to say. The vote, says Senator Joe Biden, is an effort to "demonstrate to the President he's on his own." So much for presenting a united American face to the jihadis and insurgents killing our troops in Iraq. And this from someone who fancies himself Presidential-timber.

Such a vote would be pure partisanship, and of an especially ugly sort. If Democrats seriously believe that a troop surge "will endanger more Americans," then there might be some moral justification in using Congress's power of the purse to cut off funds for the war. But as House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel candidly explained, "anytime, politically, you have to explain what you are saying, you have a problem. And so if I am there saying, 'Cut the funds for Iraq and the war in Iraq,' then someone is going to say, 'You are taking away rifles.' "

So the Democrats want the political mileage of opposing the troop increase rhetorically. What they don't want is to take responsibility for their own policy choice. Meanwhile, their rhetoric will only serve to reassure the jihadis that sooner or later Democrats will force a U.S. withdrawal. It's enough to give a half-cheer to genuine Democratic isolationists, who have proposed legislation that would require the President to seek approval to fund additional troop increases. At least they're willing to go on record.

Most reckless is the contention, also by Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi, that "it is time to bring the war to a close." No one serious--not even the Iraq Study Group--believes that the war will end if we leave. Instead, it will change into a civil war in Iraq, and perhaps a wider regional war, that is likely to draw our forces back in again somewhere in the Middle East. As the bipartisan ISG noted in its December report, "If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return."

If Congressional Democrats want to be constructive, they can insist that Mr. Bush and his generals truly implement the strategy he is now endorsing. The path Democrats have followed in the minority and are now continuing will only make U.S. success harder--a truth the American people will come to understand, and resent.
Bush took responsibility for the failures for Iraq policy in his speech Wednesday night. The Democrats can show some leadership by giving the administration's plan a chance. As the editorial notes, conflict in Iraq will not end with the removal of American troops, and indeed things are likely to get much, much worse. That's a message the Democrats just don't get.

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