Democrats are now playing with fire when it comes to Iraq.
The Iraq War may have helped the Democrats win Congress in 2006, but now developments both in Iraq and here at home are putting the Democrats -- and especially Hillary Clinton -- in a position where they might try to redefine "victory" and "defeat" to help their political fortunes at the expense of our national interest, to our nation's shame.
The Iraq War was a major factor in Democrats taking over the House and Senate. There were other issues as well. Republicans' disgraceful spending — as well as instances of corruption and incompetence — buffeted the GOP. But without a doubt, impatience with Iraq played a crucial role in Democratic wins last year. The American people rejected an unsuccessful war plan and a lack of progress on the ground.
But there's tremendous change in Iraq. Evidently General Petraeus is as brilliant of a commander as military experts said he was. Previously lawless regions are now calm enough to rebuild, towns that were written off as lost to terrorists, like in al-Anbar province, have now become relatively secure.
While everyone is quick to say that Iraq is still a dangerous place, it's immensely safer than before.
And the American people are just now beginning to digest how significant this positive development is, and what it might mean. When reporters like the New York Times' John Burns and Democratic policy experts like war critics Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon say that things are strikingly better, all but the diehards on the far Left start to listen. And polls from the New York Times and other usually anti-war outlets show that public opinion is changing in response to the new reality.
It's also becoming increasingly clear that Iraq truly is part of the global War on Terror. One reason for our military progress is that many former insurgents are allying themselves with American forces and the new Iraqi government, saying that Al Qaeda has been murdering their family members and tribesmen. Al Qaeda's brutality and terrorist tactics have turned disaffected Iraqis against them, and may mark a turning point in this conflict. This is one front in a long-term global struggle.
American progress in Iraq has painted Democrats into a corner. House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have unequivocally said the war is lost, and that we must withdraw troops now. They say that President Bush and Republicans have lost, and all we can do now is admit defeat and leave. Doing so, though, would turn a young country over to terrorists or Iran and Syria.
The Democrats realize the problem they face with Iraq is the fact that it is improving. The House Majority Whip, James Clyburn, said that if General Petraeus brings positive news from Iraq it would, "be a real big problem for us." That's just awful for a politician to say that military victory is bad news.
This is especially dangerous for Senator Clinton. The far Left of her party is now ferociously anti-war. If middle America is again willing to see this through, she runs the risk of either pandering to her base and losing swing voters, or supporting the troops and alienating her base. Neither is good.
Look for Democratic leaders — maybe including Mrs. Clinton herself — to start to redefine victory. They will cease to measure military progress and start demanding Iraqi political unity.
Our troops will win while their politicians bicker. This would enable Democrats and their presidential candidate to continue ranting that we’re losing the war, beating Republicans over the head with it, even if it's not true.
Such a strategy would be so shameful as to be disgusting, but when you tie your hopes for victory to the defeat of your own countrymen you have little choice when they actually start winning.
It used to be said that politics stopped at the water’s edge. No matter how much we argue over policy, our country used to come together during wartime to rally for victory.
It's a profound shame that our politics have gotten to this point. It’s a shame that the Democrats are likely to nominate one of the most divisive and polarizing candidates in American political history as their leader. Hillary Clinton will likely continue the politics of division and distrust that has so degraded our national discourse. If Republicans nominate someone who can unify the country and bring us back together as one on matters of war and peace, they might just win this election.
More importantly, we might just win this war.