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Dems’ 'Real Big Problem' By: Byron York
The Hill | Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Iraq debate that we’ve been watching this year has been about two bets.

After false starts and misplaced hopes in 2004, and 2005, and 2006, George W. Bush is betting his surge strategy will facilitate the political progress that could bring a semblance of stability to Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are betting the surge will fail.
It’s as simple as that. If Bush wins his bet, Iraq will be a better place, the Middle East will be a better place, and America will be a safer place.

But Reid and Pelosi lose if Bush wins. Given the position they have staked out for themselves, the best possible outcome is for Gen. David Petraeus to give a downbeat report on the surge when he comes before Congress in September. That would give tremendous momentum to those who want the quickest possible U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

It’s the dilemma of being in the opposition in wartime. By betting so much of their political capital on the issue, Reid and Pelosi have become invested in U.S. failure. A U.S. success would throw a wrench in their plans.

That sounds harsh. But just read what Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told The Washington Post.

This week the paper reported that many Democrats “have anticipated that, at best, Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker would present a mixed analysis of the success of the current troop surge strategy, given continued violence in Baghdad.” But now, the Post continued, “there have been signs that the commander of U.S. forces might be preparing something more generally positive.”

And that, Clyburn told the paper, would be “a real big problem for us.”

Clyburn’s comments are the flip side of what Reid said in April when he declared, “We’re going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Sen. [Charles] Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.”

Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said, “Look at the poll numbers of Republican senators, and the war in Iraq is a lead weight attached
to their ankle.” As a result, Schumer predicted, some Republicans face “extinction” while Democrats pick up more seats.
American success in Iraq could mess all of that up.

It’s a terrible position for Democrats to be in, one they could have avoided if they had given the surge time to succeed or fail. But they put all their chips on failure before it even began.

That’s why we have seen such frenzied criticism of what is probably the most debated op-ed of the year, this week’s article in The New York Times entitled “A War We Just Might Win,” by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack.

The authors, both with the Brookings Institution, were early proponents of the war and later critics of Bush’s handling of it. Now, they write, “We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms,” and they see the possibility of “a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.”

They might be wrong; in the fifth year of this war, anyone who is not deeply skeptical about reports of progress just isn’t being realistic. And even if the surge is working, war supporters can be rightly furious at Bush for not doing it years ago.
But at least they aren’t betting on — haven’t staked their hopes on — American failure.

Who would want to do that?

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