New military tactics in Iraq are working but the best way to honor soldiers is “by beginning to bring them home,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told a veterans group Monday.
Clinton, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, praised the work that soldiers have done in Iraq but described the Iraqi government as “on vacation,” leaving American troops in the middle of a sectarian war.
Carl Levin and John Warner, just back from Iraq, say the same thing. Media coverage of the successes in Anbar has now reached the point where they can’t credibly claim there’s been no progress of any sort, so they’re emphasizing the political stalemate. The question is, as it’s been all along, whether military success is a necessary precondition to political reconciliation or whether the opposite is true. Read Grim’s response to the seven soldiers’ op-ed in the Times yesterday for more thoughts on that. If it’s true that one side needs to be thoroughly defeated to force them to compromise politically, then arguably the surge is making that less possible notwithstanding the progress in Anbar. Sunnis under siege from Al Qaeda might be more willing to make a deal with the Shiite government to provide security; Sunnis with their own militias and control of their own territory, by contrast, might be more willing to press their luck and hold out for better terms. On the other hand, from a standpoint of pure U.S. self-interest, having two sides armed and willing to pound AQ is the preferred outcome, whatever it may mean for their relations towards each other. I guess the optimal solution is figuring out the precise amount of Sunni empowerment such that they’re capable of keeping terrorists out but not so capable that they think they can retake the country.
Here’s Rush’s remix of Hillary’s new ad, by the way. Amusing, although I’m not sure what he means by troops in Iraq being invisible to her. She’s been there three times. Click the image and scroll down to watch.
[S]ome Democrats worry that credible reports of even slight improvements in the military situation in Iraq could hurt their party’s momentum, built largely on public disenchantment with President Bush and his handling of the war. The administration is writing the September update while consulting with Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker. Both men will testify before Congress…
Some Democratic lawmakers have drawn similar conclusions, putting new strains on party solidarity. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., recently returned from Iraq and said he no longer supports a hard deadline for troop withdrawals.
Update: Such a bad idea, for all the reasons Geraghty lists plus the fact that most of the public agrees with the Democrats that Iraq isn’t part of the war on terror. Holding the hearing on that day will only play up the distinction. Just leave 9/11 alone; the facts are the facts the day before or the day after.