What began as misgivings about Iraq by a dovecote of military officers, mostly retired, has expanded now - with the Democratic takeover - into a full-blown revolt of the generals in Congress.
New leadership at Defense and Central Command has failed to satisfy these congressional generals. Smelling blood, they want the neck of the commander-in-chief himself, whom they have bludgeoned relentlessly since his 2000 election.
On Iraq, most voted to support the U.S. going in. Now most say it was all a mistake. Many wanted different strategies and more troops. Now many oppose more troops, sanctimoniously contending that neither new troops inserted between the warring factions nor new strategies will work. The congressional generals in effect have joined Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda at the barricades. Nothing will satisfy but to declare defeat and bring the boys and girls home ahead of the advancing jihadists.
True enough, mistakes have abounded. President Bush failed to rally - mobilize - the citizenry for the war in which we suddenly found ourselves. The administration failed to embrace a universal service program to stoke the fires of public support and spur manpower levels. And the Pentagon failed to deploy adequate troops for either the main conflict or the end game. (Question: How do you build a stable government without first pacifying the populace?)
Enter the congressional generals.
The Pelosi-Kerry-Reid clique would cap both funding and troop levels. Generals Clinton, Biden, Collins and Dodd, et al, would use the assets at hand to get it over as soon as possible - and get out. General Warner, blowing hard and at this late hour lamenting he "was not more outspoken about Vietnam," seeks evidently to be more outspoken about Iraq by expressing his resistance (bipartisanly, of course) to more troops.
Then there is the newest Keystone Kop in the room, General Webb. Once again reminding everyone (a) of his family's fighting heritage since Bannockburn and (b) of his Cassandra warnings about Iraq since before The Beginning, Webb has deployed snarky rhetoric against practically everyone, including some of the other generals. Regarding President Bush, General Webb insists he took the nation into Iraq "recklessly" - to which Vice President Cheney has responded with precision, "Hogwash."
Arrayed against these unguided missiles - these congressional generals who want to limit further efforts to prevail in Iraq - some, seemingly a diminishing few, are making sense.
Senators McCain, Lieberman, Cornyn, Graham, DeMint, et al, would not frog-march the troops home. Nor would they give up on the Iraqi mission. Nor would they send mixed messages to the world, the Iraqi people, the American people, the jihadists and the troops. Nor would they enlist in ignominious no-confidence votes lacking any force and signifying nothing except irresolution and confusion.
Some quotes. . .
John McCain: "I would urge Senator Warner to look at the history of two recent conflicts: Bosnia and Kosovo. . . . We went in with overwhelming force and stopped the sectarian violence, the same kind of sectarian violence that Senator Warner doesn't want us to intervene in."
Alexander Downer, foreign minister of Australia: "I hope the American people understand the importance of not retreating and thinking the world's problems aren't theirs."
Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state: "(Adding 21,000 troops) is the best way to get the maneuvering room for the changes in deployment and strategy that will be required."
And. . .
David Petraeus, recently confirmed in the Senate as the commander of allied forces in Iraq: "The situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. Progress will require determination and difficult U.S. and Iraqi actions - especially the latter - as ultimately the outcome will be determined by the Iraqis. But hard is not hopeless."
President Bush: "It is ironic that the Senate would vote 81-0 to send a general into Iraq who believes he needs more troops to do the job and then send a contradictory message."
Fouad Ajami, author and Johns Hopkins professor: "(Contemporary Iraq is a) country midwifed by American power. We were never meant to stay there long. Iraq will never approximate the expectations we projected onto it in more innocent times. But we should be able to grant it the gift of acceptance, and yet another dose of patience as it works its way out of its current torments."