If I were George Bush right about now, I'd wrap my arms around Harry Reid and give him a great big kiss on the cheek. And I might even consider sending Speaker Pelosi a dozen roses, thanking her for playing her part to perfection in this Democratic Party defeatist extravaganza.
The Democrats are handing the President the one thing he desperately needed in order to maintain the surge, veto the Iraq supplemental with its timetables and withdrawal stipulations, and unite the Republicans as they haven't been since the election last November: a political club with which to beat his opponents and re-energize support for the war among his base.
It's been awhile since Bush was presented with such a gift. In previous months, the Democrats played the Iraq card with great care and skill, not getting too much out in front of the American people while maintaining support for their position by framing the debate as one of "altering course" rather than cut and run. They successfully portrayed the President as intransigent on changing strategy. And, of course, the Democrats were helped enormously by the constant drumbeat of negativity regarding the surge as a result of several high profile, horrific bombings with large civilian death tolls.
As an aside, in one of the great historical ironies of all time, the very same elements in the media and on the left that took the Pentagon to task 40 years ago for harping on enemy body counts to show progress in the Viet Nam War now confidently use body counts to show that the surge supposedly isn't working.
C'est la vie! C'est la guerre!
There's little doubt that Bush was on the defensive when it came to the Iraq supplemental. While his veto would have been upheld anyway, Harry Reid and his assessment that the war is already lost as well as Nancy Pelosi's refusal to meet with the Commanding General in Iraq for a briefing has changed the dynamic of the debate over the war, giving the Administration a juicy opening with which to skewer the opposition.
Pelosi's gaffe is mind boggling. Being able to find time to meet and drink tea with the Syrian thug President Assad but brushing off a briefing with America's own Iraq Commander General Petraeus is a juxtaposition of priorities that is too delicious not to use. The defeatists risk being seen as a variation of the Three Wise Monkeys with "see no progress, hear no progress, and speak no progress" when it comes to Iraq. Perhaps there is a little nervousness about some of the news that is breaking through all the stories about car bombings and suicide attacks, which are down in number but not much in casualties. In fact some of the indicators regarding the violence are improving less than 3 months into the surge.
In truth, the Democrats and the left have already left the surge for dead. No matter what news comes out of Iraq, the Democrats will spin it to prove that the strategy is not working. Unfortunately, this will be relatively easy to do since the insurgents and terrorists are very obliging in working hand in hand with the defeatists in Congress to undermine the President's strategy by getting as big a bang for their buck with each brutal attack on innocent civilians as they can.
Of course, other elements of the new strategy not totally dependent on the military are showing signs of success. The reconstruction teams, whose numbers have doubled and who have already begun working with tribal leaders to turn the tide in Anbar Province, have met with many small but significant successes. This is reflected in a growing realization by Sunnis that they are likely to get a better political deal if the Americans stay rather than if our troops are withdrawn, leaving them in the lurch:
Meanwhile, opponents of the Iraqi operations back in the United States are getting nervous about the success of the security operations in Baghdad and its suburbs. The fact that nearly all the Sunni Arab tribes have joined the government is seen as a political disaster by many U.S. politicians who have declared Iraq a failed venture for the United States. It's a bizarre situation, and long has been. You only have to visit web sites frequented by Iraqis or American troops, to see that what is reported in most of the media about Iraq is invented, or distorted beyond all reason into an alternate reality.
This "alternate reality" lived in by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi is aided and abetted by a compliant news media who appear to be too lazy to balance coverage of bloody body counts with other aspects of the surge that show some signs of progress. The Iraqi army appears to be making significant strides in helping to police Baghdad. And there is a slow process underway to purge many police units of some of the worst elements who enable the sectarian death squads to carry out their murderous rampages or who are killers themselves.
Taken as a whole, some aspects of the surge are working better than others. But even the most caustic observer - and I include myself in that company - would have to agree that there are definite signs that we are not "losing" the war and may, in fact, be nearer to a modest success than anyone realizes.
Much will depend on the actions of Prime Minister Maliki and his government. How committed are they to a truly multi-sectarian, multi-ethnic Iraq? Can they resist the influence of Iranian backed militias and political parties? Will the Shias ever agree to share power with the Sunnis?
These are questions that will not be answered by any actions taken by the US military. But how Maliki deals with them will determine whether or not our strategy is successful.
All of that lies in the future. For now, Harry Reid has a problem. His defeatist words are still ricocheting around the internet and cable news, refusing to disappear down the usual rabbit hole where Democratic gaffes are quietly sent by the media. Instead, those words have energized the pro-war crowd and angered many of the troops. Is it any wonder? When the news organ of the enemy - al-Jazeera - makes your defeatist words headline material, one wonders what else might define the crime of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy?"
But Reid and the Democrats don't seem to care at this point. Since they have never seen the Iraq War as anything except a political weapon to be used against the President and the Republicans, their cold calculations with regard to handing President Bush (and by extension the United States) a defeat don't need to be buttressed by any kind of nonsense about "supporting the troops." Their platitudes about caring about our men and women under arms rings rather hollow when the second most powerful Democrat in Washington tells them they're a bunch of losers - that all their efforts, the blood they've spilled, the sacrifices they've made, have been in vain.
This won't be a turning point in the war. But like Admiral Farragut capturing Mobile Bay when the Civil War was at its absolute nadir in August of 1864, Reid's words have actually heartened the President's remaining supporters, in that they have given them a political opening to portray the Democrats as exactly what they pretend not to be; a party that would rather lose a war than acknowledge any progress toward success in Iraq.
Thanks for the leg up, Harry. We sure needed it.