TNR asks: What if Iraq stabilizes?

The horror, the horror.

It hasn’t become much of a campaign issue–yet–but for the first time in a long while the news from Iraq isn’t unrelentingly ghastly. Some previously hard-to-imagine glimmers of hope are now emerging. Of course there are a thousand caveats here, and Slate’s Phil Carter has a good summation of them. But this weekend an experienced Iraq correspondent–someone who has been extremely bleak about the war in the past–told me he thinks it’s really possible that the country is turning a corner.

Which raises all sorts of secondary but fascinating political questions: What do the Democrats do if–yes: if, if, if–the surge appears to have succeeded? (Or at least seems, to voters, to have succeeded: I realize the tribal shift in Anbar, for instance, wasn’t imposed by US troops–although my correspondent friend said surge forces did enable us to exploit Sunni tribal cooperation and root out al Qaeda.) Indeed, if Iraq somehow stabilizes and even incrementally improves, doesn’t that affect the presidential campaign in important and unpredictable ways?

Betting on the US losing isn’t the best way for a political party to bet, but it’s the way the Democrats and their apologists have been betting since Vietnam. That said, unless things change radically between now and next year’s election, Iraq isn’t going to be the primary issue. Unless something else pops up to take precedence, illegal immigration will be the key issue.