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Cynical is much too nice a word for it.

January 11 2007 at 7:02 PM
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Response to "Bush for it? We're agin it!"

It's just incredible that these guys can't/won't contribute anything to this subject; not ideas, not true debate, and certainly not an alternative plan.

One thing we can now say; pots all in for this fight.

A Cynical Opposition
January 11, 2007; Page A14

You might have thought President Bush's announcement yesterday that he intends to deploy several thousand more combat soldiers to Iraq would have been sweet policy vindication for the Democrats. They're the ones who spent the better part of the past four years using Eric Shinseki -- the former Army Chief of Staff who, prior to the war, estimated it would take up to half a million troops to occupy the country -- as a cudgel with which to beat this President over the head.

Thus former House minority leader, now Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing General Shinseki in May 2004, on "Meet the Press": "What I'm saying to you, [is] that we need more troops on the ground." Thus, too, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, just four weeks ago: "If it's for a surge -- that is, for two or three months -- and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it."

Lately the Democrats have been singing from a different hymnal. In a letter Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi sent the President last week, they write: "Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. . . . Adding more combat troops will endanger more Americans and stretch our military capability to the breaking point for no strategic gain."

As for Carl Levin, the new Senate Armed Forces Chairman was also one of those who used to call for more troops. But now he is threatening a legislative cap on the number of troops in Iraq if Mr. Bush doesn't start a significant drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq later this year. We'll bet Mr. Levin never has the political nerve to follow through on anything but TV sound-bite criticism.

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 related Review & Outlook1.) 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.

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