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The Democrats' Surge Problem By: William Kristol
The Weekly Standard | Thursday, November 15, 2007


It was a reasonable position (though a mistaken one) to oppose the war in Iraq. It was a reasonable position (though a mistaken one) to oppose the surge of troops at the beginning of 2007, on the grounds that it seemed unlikely the surge could succeed, and that some kind of not-too-damaging-withdrawal was the only option.

But now the surge is succeeding. Any serious person has to be rethinking his position going forward in that light. No Democrat is doing any such rethinking, however. What Democrats are doing now is, in effect, denying evident success. And, by continuing to push for a withdrawal timetable, they are trying to prevent further success.

Here's Barack Obama, in what was generally a pretty successful performance on Meet the Press yesterday, trying to explain his position:

"Look, I was opposed to this war in 2002, 2003, four, five, six and seven.

What I was very clear about, even in 2002 in my original opposition, was once we were in, we were going to have to make some decisions to see how we could stabilize the situation and act responsibly. And that's what I did through 2004, five and six, try to see can we create a workable government in Iraq? Can we make sure that we are minimizing the humanitarian costs in Iraq? Can we make sure that our troops are safe in Iraq? And that's what I have done. Finally, in 2006, 2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn't withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled down and initiated the surge.

And at that stage, I said, very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there.

And since that time I've been absolutely clear in terms of the approach that I would take. I would end this war, and I would have our troops out within 16 months....

But I haven't changed in my opposition to the war. Look, you know, at the time when we were trying to convene a government in Iraq that would work, it was important, I think, for me and others who opposed the war to hope for the best possible outcome in Iraq. You know, I've never rooted against success in Iraq, I've just been skeptical that this was the right approach for us to take."

Obama wasn't alone in predicting that the surge would be "worsening, potentially" the situation in Iraq. But it didn't. The situation is better.

And the Democratic party, and its presidential candidates, are in the ridiculous position of being more anti-war now that we're winning than they were when we were losing.

The surge, as Kimberly Kagan explains in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, is clobbering al Qaeda. It could also end up clobbering the Democratic presidential nominee, who will be on record as repeatedly having sought to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. The Democratic candidates have, as Joe Lieberman said last week, "emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq." They've also politically invested in such a narrative. It was a bad (and dishonorable) investment. It may well cost them the 2008 election.




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