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The Democrats' 'Slow-Bleed' Strategy By: William Kristol
The Weekly Standard | Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Politicians often say foolish things. Members of both parties criticize cavalierly and thunder thoughtlessly. They advance irresponsible suggestions and embrace mistaken policies. But most of our politicians, most of the time, stop short of knowingly hurting the country. Watching developments in Congress this past week, though, one has to ask: Can that be said any longer about the leadership of the Democratic party?

President Bush is sending reinforcements to join our soldiers fighting in Iraq. Democrats are entitled to doubt this will work. They are entitled to conclude the whole cause is hopeless or unjust--and that we should withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible or on some other more responsible timetable. They are entitled to move legislation in Congress to compel such a withdrawal, on a schedule and with provisions that seem to them appropriate.

But surely they should not fecklessly try to weaken the U.S. position in Iraq, and America's standing in the world, by raising doubts as to our commitment in Iraq without advancing an alternative. That is precisely what they are doing with the nonbinding resolution condemning the dispatch of additional troops to Iraq. The fact that some Republicans have embraced this resolution does not excuse the Democratic party for its virtually monolithic support of it. The GOP has its share of fools and weaklings. But it is the Democratic party that now seems willing to commit itself, en masse, to a foreign policy of foolishness and weakness.

For the nonbinding resolution passed by the House Friday is merely the first round. What comes next are legislative restrictions and budgetary limitations designed to cripple our effort in Iraq. As Politico.com reported Thursday:

Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options. . . . The House strategy is being crafted quietly. . . . [Rep. Jack] Murtha, the powerful chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will seek to attach a provision to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. It would restrict the deployment of troops to Iraq unless they meet certain levels of adequate manpower, equipment and training to succeed in combat. That's a standard Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet. . . . Additional funding restrictions are also being considered by Murtha.

So the nonbinding resolution is only the first step in the slow-bleed strategy. The Murtha plan intends to block further relief and reinforcement for American troops, leaving them exposed and unable to succeed. Surely Democrats (and fellow-traveling Republicans) will turn back from this path while they still have time to save some of their honor. But the antiwar groups won't make it easy. John Bresnahan's Politico.com report continues:

Anti-war groups like [Tom] Mazzie's are prepared to spend at least $6.5 million on a TV ad campaign and at least $2 million more on a grass-roots lobbying effort. Vulnerable GOP incumbents . . . will be targeted by the anti-war organizations, according to Mazzie and former Rep. Tom Andrews, D-Maine, head of the Win Without War Coalition. . . . Mazzie also said anti-war groups would field primary and general election challengers to Democratic lawmakers who do not support proposals to end the war. . . . Andrews, who met with Murtha on Tuesday to discuss legislative strategy, acknowledged "there is a relationship" with the House Democratic leadership and the anti-war groups, but added, "It is important for our members that we not be seen as an arm of the Democratic Caucus or the Democratic Party. We're not hand in glove." . . . "I don't know how you vote against Murtha," said Andrews. "It's kind of an ingenious thing."

No, the Democrats and the antiwar groups shouldn't "be seen" as "hand in glove." But they are. The national Democratic party has become the puppet of antiwar groups. These groups do not merely accept-reluctantly--American defeat in the Middle East. They seek to hasten it. Some seem to welcome it.

The leaders of those groups believe their slow-bleed strategy is "kind of an ingenious thing." In truth, it's not really so "ingenious." But it is disgraceful. In our judgment, it will fail as a political strategem, it will fail to derail the president's policy--and we will ultimately prevail in Iraq. The slow-bleed strategy will, however, stain the reputation of its champions, and of the useful idiots in both parties who have gone along with it.

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