House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) has declared the war in Iraq unwinnable.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich), incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
said troop withdrawals should begin in four to six months.
So why do I think Democratic control of Congress could be a step toward victory in
The New York Times provides a clue. Before the election, the Times trumpeted
criticisms of the Bush administration's conduct of the war by retired generals such
as Anthony Zinni, a former commander of CENTCOM, and John Batiste, who commanded the
1st Infantry Division in Iraq. Democrats hailed them as strategic geniuses.
Now that the election is over, we're getting what Paul Harvey would call the rest of
the story. In an article Nov. 15, Michael Gordon, the Times' military writer,
reported that Gen. Zinni and MajGen. Batiste think failure in Iraq would lead to
disaster in the region; that more troops are required there, not fewer.
With power comes greater scrutiny. When Democrats were, in essence, powerless,
little attention was paid to the potential consequences of their views on Iraq.
That's changing. News coverage of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing
November 15 focused on the sharp exchanges between Gen. John Abizaid, the CENTCOM
commander, and Democrats who want to withdraw troops.
My cautious optimism is based on my assumption that perceived self interest among
Democrats will overcome ideological fidelity to their moonbat base.
A large number, but a distinct minority of Americans either are indifferent to the
consequences of defeat in Iraq, or would welcome it as a deserved humiliation for
our "hubris" and "militarism." Many of Ms. Pelosi's constituents in San Francisco,
and likely the Speaker-elect herself, are in this group.
A narrow majority of Americans now believes it was a mistake to have gone to war
with Iraq in the first place, and a large majority is critical of the way the Bush
administration has conducted the war. Many of these people voted Democratic this
month. But they are not ashamed of their country, and they are concerned about the
consequences of defeat.
When they were out of power, Democrats didn't have to distinguish between their
moonbat base and the larger groups who questioned the wisdom and the conduct of the
war, but not the goodness of America or the evil of our enemies. Any failure in
Iraq could be described as a failure of the Bush administration.
With the exception of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Ct) and a handful of others,
Democrats have shown a distressing willingness to jeopardize national security in
pursuit of political power.
The calculus has changed. Now that Democrats have a share in power, their hold on
it could be endangered by failure in Iraq -- especially if Democrats are perceived
as being responsible for that failure.
In a post-election poll taken by Newsweek magazine, 69 percent of respondents said
they were concerned Democrats would keep President Bush "from doing what is
necessary to combat terrorism," and 78 percent said they feared Democrats would seek
too hasty a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
It's important to remember how tenuous the Democratic hold on power is. John
McIntyre of RealClear Politics notes that 17 of the 29 Democrats who took seats from
the GOP ran in districts that President Bush had won by more than 5 percentage
points in 2004. If 15 of those seats come "home" in 2008, Speaker Pelosi will be no
The 51-49 division in the upper house makes Joe Lieberman arguably the most powerful
senator. Spurned by most Democrats in favor of nutroots candidate Ned Lamont, Sen.
Lieberman has not ruled out becoming a Republican if his party moves too far to the
left. Jim Webb, the senator-elect from Virginia, became a Democrat (again) because
of his opposition to the war in Iraq. But the much decorated Marine hero is no
apostle for American defeat. Mr. Webb has changed parties more often than some
people change their underwear. There's no guarantee he won't do it again.
The near 2 to 1 rejection of Ms. Pelosi's candidate for majority leader, Rep. Jack
Murtha of Johnstown, chief tenor in the Cut & Run chorus, suggests her troops in the
Democratic caucus are unwilling to follow her over a political cliff.
We can succeed in Iraq and in the broader war on terror only if this is perceived at
home and abroad as America's war, not as Bush's war.
America's enemies hailed the election of a Democratic congress as a great victory.
The self interest of the newly elected Democrats, if not their patriotism, may keep
this from being so.