Second, they keep their policy prescriptions vague. Top Democrats John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry — as well as Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont — all have endorsed a pullout within months. If Murtha had had his way back in November 2005, when he first advocated a six-month drawdown, U.S. troops would have left in May, and Iraq already would be in the books as a lost war. Subsequently, all of these Democrats have shifted to advocate, along with most of the party, a nonspecific timetable for withdrawal. This is a transparent way station toward advocating a pullout whenever it becomes politically palatable (say, after a Democratic victory in November).
Finally, Democrats balance their pessimistic calls for troop withdrawals in Iraq with resolute advocacy in favor of more troops in Afghanistan. But there is no logical cause to favor the war in Afghanistan over the one in Iraq, given that both involve fighting terrorist insurgencies with a strong ethnic element in wars that will drag on for years and have been getting harder recently.
There is one obvious way for the Democrats to bury charges of defeatism. It would be for the bulk of the party to swing around to an affirmative strategy for victory and for the party's leaders to support it energetically. That, of course, will never happen. If the Democrats sweep in the fall, it will be a sign that the American public has begun to give up entirely on Iraq — and an eventual U.S. loss there will be marked, appropriately, by the ascendance here at home of the party of defeat.