Michael Barone, one of the shrewdest and most knowledgable observers of American politics believes that the Op-Ed in last week's New York Times by Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack may have begun to alter the perception of what is going on in Iraq among Washington decision makers:
Wars don't stand still. In June 1942, the House of Commons debated a resolution of no confidence in Winston Churchill's government. Four months later came the war-changing victory at El Alamein.
Gen. David Petraeus, the author of the Army's new counterinsurgency manual and the commander in Iraq, is scheduled to report on the surge in mid-September. The prospect of an even partially positive report has sent chills up the spines of Democratic leaders in Congress. That, says House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would be "a real big problem for us."
Barone points out the danger for Democrats in listening to their base with regard to retreating from Iraq:
The Democratic base has been furious that Democrats in Congress haven't pulled the plug on the war already, and Democratic strategists have been anticipating big electoral gains from military defeat. But if the course of the war can change, so can public opinion. A couple of recent polls showed increased support for the decision to go to war and belief that the surge is working. If opinion continues to shift that way, if others come to see things as O'Hanlon and Pollack have, Democrats could find themselves trapped between a base that wants retreat and defeat, and a majority that wants victory.
Even a modest improvement in the security situation will make Democrats on the Hill squirm. You can bet the White House will ramp up the pressure if General Petreaus reports in September that we are making decent progress in achieving our goals. And Democrats will be forced to decide whether to cut Petreaus off at the knees or give him the extra time he will be asking for to improve the situation even more.