President Bush has now done what Democrats have been demanding of him for years. But are they satisfied? Of course not. They make sure of that by forever moving the goal posts.
Democrats have constantly complained that President Bush never admits mistakes and is too stubborn and inflexible to change his strategies. But on all these counts, his speech on Iraq should give Democrats much to cheer about.
He admitted he has made mistakes in Iraq and that his policies were not working. He accepted responsibility for his failures and laid out a new strategy specifically to address and remedy them. But instead of praising him, Democrats redoubled their criticism and reaffirmed their resignation to our defeat.
How about the president's new strategy? The press is heavily emphasizing his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, but is ignoring the other equally important aspects of the strategy.
The president intends to close several debilitating loopholes in our strategy to date. He is changing the rules of engagement and demanding the removal of restrictions on attacking Shiite militias, which have been insulated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
President Bush also confirmed what we've long known: Iran and Syria are fomenting sectarian violence and terrorism, and providing safe haven for terrorists and insurgents to move in and out of Iraq. And, "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops."
But he did more than merely pay lip service to Iran and Syria's intermeddling. He said we would "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." Depending on how far he is willing to go literally to implement that part of the policy, it could represent a major breakthrough in the war.
The additional troops will not just be used to augment our forces across the board. Twenty-one-thousand troops wouldn't amount to a drop in the bucket if that were the only change. But, most will be strategically placed in the war's hot spots: Baghdad and Anbar Province so that we won't have to neglect one area while focusing on the other.
The proof remains in the implementation, but the president deserves credit for his commitment to victory and his willingness to make significant adjustments to succeed. He could have taken the easy way out by using the Iraq Study Group report as cover to withdraw our troops and extricate ourselves from the problematic mess.
But he has always been sincere in maintaining Iraq is a central part of the war on terror and that a "self-governing, self-sustaining, self-defending" and stable Iraq is essential to a victory in the war on terror. Despite setbacks and incessant criticisms of his policies and attacks on his character, he has remained unbowed in pursuit of victory. Meanwhile, the Democrats continue doing what they do best: castigating President Bush and obstructing his policies, without offering a single constructive alternative. Their very choice of a speaker to respond to the president's address: Sen. Dick Durbin -- notorious for comparing Gitmo to Nazi and Communist prison camps -- is emblematic of their attitude toward the war and the enemy.
The Democrats' response, true to form, was directed more at President Bush personally even than attacking his policies. Instead of applauding him for publicly acknowledging mistakes on Iraq, they seized on his admission as another opportunity to condemn his mistakes. Always in negative campaign mode, their urgent business of ruining President Bush must take precedence over winning the war.
The Democrats' lack of seriousness about the war can be seen in the randomness of their musical-chairs criticisms. As soon as the president does what they have demanded, such as in sending more troops or issuing ultimatums to al-Maliki, they pretend they never advocated such things and move on to the next convenient criticism.
That's because their complaints are mostly designed to mask their real goal of abandoning the military option (read: cutting and running) and negotiating with terrorist tyrants.
The Democratic leadership is like a bunch of dogs nipping at the pant legs of President Bush while he's trying to keep his legs in motion to score a touchdown. But if they earnestly try to deny funding for these troops, as threatened, and begin endless, destructive investigations, they'll become defensive linebackers committed outright to thwarting our victory and ensuring that our fallen soldiers have died in vain.
President Bush's plan is not guaranteed to succeed, but it might be our last best hope to turn things around and move toward victory.
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