Linda Chavez

Only time will tell whether the president's new plan to rescue Iraq from sectarian violence will succeed, but Democrats in Congress will do everything they can to make sure it doesn't. Democrats argue that Americans have no stomach for the war in Iraq, a point voters made loudly last November when they elected a new majority in both houses of Congress.

True enough, but we live in a republic, not a direct democracy. The November election doesn't absolve Democrat or Republican members of Congress of their duty to act in the best interests of the Nation, especially when it comes to matters of national defense.

The Democrats' strategy is a risky one, not just for the country but for their own political futures. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already announced that Democrats will try to hold up funding for additional troops by attaching strings to Defense appropriations bills that severely limit the administration's options.

Senate Democrats will try to pass a non-binding no-confidence resolution, and they're hoping they can entice a handful of Republicans like Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to join them. But no amount of "bipartisan" cover will protect Democrats if their efforts undermine U.S. troop security -- or if the president's plan actually works.

The irony is that Democrats were in the perfect position to embrace the president's plan, even take credit for it, while at the same time leaving him shouldering 100 percent responsibility if the plan fails.

Democrats were early to recognize the threat of sectarian violence in Iraq and have consistently been skeptical of democracy taking hold in Iraq in an atmosphere of uncontrolled violence. For much of the war, prominent Democrats were in the forefront of arguing we needed more troops in Iraq, and the president was the one resisting, claiming that his generals assured him they had the resources they needed.

When he was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told USA Today, "If it requires more troops in order to create the stability that eliminates the chaos . . . that's what we have to do."

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., went even further. "A number of us have been sounding this alarm. We have to face the fact we need a larger active-duty military," she told the Fox News Channel in May 2004.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., began calling for more troops in 2003 -- and he argued that we would need to stay in Iraq for several years. In April 2004, Sen. Biden told Jim Lehrer on PBS, "We don't have enough troops there." And he argued, "It's going to take at least three years to train up an Iraqi police force, it's going to take that long or longer to train an Iraqi army. The truth of the matter is there is no security but U.S. security, a few Brits, a few Spaniards and a few Poles. It is the United States of America."

So why have the Democrats suddenly changed their tune?

It looks like they're just playing politics. If the president is opposed to sending more troops, the Democrats are for it. When the president finally admits he's made a mistake and more troops are needed, the Democrats reverse course.

If the Democrats were smart -- not to mention, principled -- their response to the president's new plan would have been to welcome it, cautiously.

They could have said, "All Americans share the same goal: bringing our troops home and leaving Iraq better than we found it. Toward that end, we are going to give the president six months to show some progress in quelling sectarian violence. We're not sure the president's plan will succeed in bringing stability to Iraq, but it's worth a try."

Instead, by playing politics with their most sacred duty, the Democrats have squandered an opportunity not only to do what is right, but what would have been relatively risk-free.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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