Lost on Iraq

Rich Lowry
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Posted: Apr 26, 2007 4:21 PM
Lost on Iraq

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a bright, shining moment of honesty when he said that the war in Iraq is lost.

He unburdened himself of what he and many of his colleagues have long believed about the war. Now if only Democrats saw fit to continue with their truth-telling. Then they would acknowledge that their mandate for a U.S. withdrawal beginning in October is a policy predicated on our defeat, and that they don't think anything can or should be done about Iran and al-Qaida feasting on a prostrate Iraq and the country possibly descending into genocidal bloodletting.

This position would be unimpeachably logical. It would accept, in the words Reid has repeated a lot lately, "facts and reality," as Democrats see them. One could strenuously disagree with this position but still see a certain honor in its frankness and internal consistency.

Democrats, of course, are doing nothing of the kind. Instead, after Reid's "lost" comment, they retreated back into their fog of evasion, contradictions and groan-inducing implausibilities. The party of defeat has a deep identity crisis because it can't admit what it is, and thus lives a life of dishonesty and unconvincing denial.

Reid didn't disavow his remark, but his spokesman said that in the future he will "couch it more." Sen. Dianne Feinstein said that Reid had "more a problem of tone rather than of substance." Democrats therefore have resolved themselves to find euphemisms for the word "lost." Their current favorite is "there is no military solution in Iraq."

Asked about his "lost" comment on CNN, Reid said, "I agree with Gen. Petraeus," because Petraeus has said only part of the war is military. Saying that the war is multifaceted, however, bears no relation to the proposition that it is lost. Pressed on as to what message it sends to the troops to tell them the war is unwinnable, Reid said, "Gen. Petraeus has told them that." Really? Reid apparently inhabits an alternate reality created by his need to weasel his way out of his own convictions on the war.

Reid doesn't want to hear it if Petraeus has anything positive to say about the war. "I don't believe him," Reid said of Petraeus' reports of progress. This is not surprising. Like many Democrats, Reid has a faith in defeat that is impervious to all contrary evidence. Acknowledging any fluidity in conditions in Iraq -- say, how our position has improved in Anbar province in recent months -- is to tacitly admit the folly of making final statements about defeat or victory. So Reid fixates on exactly the indicator that al-Qaida in Iraq wants him to -- the spectacular suicide bombings meant to undermine our will.

To compensate for giving up on this war, Democrats conjure an imaginary Iraq War to which they will be utterly committed and which we will fight until glorious victory. That is the war we supposedly will fight against al-Qaida in Iraq -- after, of course, we withdraw our troops and hand over the Anbar and Diyala provinces to it. Sen. Chuck Schumer, in Reid cleanup mode, says then we'll be wondrously positioned to go "after an al-Qaida camp that might arise in Iraq." Might? We already are engaged in a fight with al-Qaida in Iraq now -- to keep it from stoking a full-scale sectarian war and from taking over swathes of Iraq -- but the Democrats think that we've lost it.

"No one wants us to succeed in Iraq more than the Democrats," Reid maintains. What a pathetic canard. As if believing a war is lost has no effect on your will to succeed in it. Reid might have been right if he had said the past tense, "wanted."

Democrats are under no obligation to think the war can be won. But they should feel obliged to their consciences and voters to be forthright about what they believe. Waiting for them to do that seems the real lost cause.