Jim Hoft, at the blog Gateway Pundit, called attention to the Anbar mistake almost as soon as Obama made it. “Obama also said the Anbar Awakening was an attempt by the Sunnis to make peace with the Shia. Sorry -- The Anbar Awakening was an agreement among Sunni Tribal Leaders to join together to fight Sunni Al-Qaeda terrorists. It had nothing to do with the Shiites.” Hoft also pointed out that the formalization of the Anbar Awakening occurred prior to the 2006 elections and had been ongoing for more than a year before the Democrats won back the majority.
I realize that one way to appeal to the anti-war left base of the Democratic party is to claim to be the candidate who opposed the war, or the surge, more vigorously. In light of recent news, however, that might not be such a great strategy for the general election – especially if progress continues.
This week, the Associated Press reported the following: “In a telephone interview from Iraq, Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, commander of the roughly 35,000 Marine and Army forces in Anbar, said levels of violence have dropped so significantly — coupled with the growth and development of Iraqi security forces in the province — that Anbar is ready to be handed back to the Iraqis… Under a plan accepted by the Iraqi government as well as the top two American authorities in Iraq — Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus — the U.S. military will transfer control of Anbar to provincial authorities in March, followed by a ceremony in April, Gaskin said.”
Referring to the Democrat candidates’ responses in that New Hampshire debate, the Washington Post asked, “Why do Democratic candidates refuse to acknowledge progress in Iraq?” The answer is pretty obvious. It is hard to acknowledge progress at the same time you are arguing that you fought hardest against President Bush’s “failed policy.”The Democratic candidate making the strongest case might claim the nomination, but at the same time they will be providing Republicans with some great ammunition for ads in the general election. Those video clips of candidates declaring the surge a failure they were proud to have fought will juxtapose perfectly to reports of decreased violence and perhaps even political progress in Iraq. Even if the situation in Iraq has improved to the point that it is no longer at the top of the news come November, the issue of qualification to lead the country as Commander-in-Chief will remain as important as ever.