Surprise: American Troops More Effective on Iraq Policy Than Dawdling, 0-40 Dems in Congress

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Nov 13, 2007 9:15 AM

Not all is well in Baghdad by any means, but it's a problem for the doom-and-gloom Dems that images like this are traversing the wires, even from Reuters. These men are shopping for toys in a Baghdad market.

The Dems' record on Iraq votes since they've had the majority in both houses? 0-40, and their approval numbers just keep on falling.
Indeed, the only war legislation passed during this Congress has been to give the president exactly what he wants, and exactly what he has had for the past five years: more money, with no limitations.
When Dems retook the House and Senate, they were convinced they'd been handed a mandate on Iraq regardless of developments on the ground. The public was against the war supported by Republicans, so it elected Democrats to end it. Period.

I've always been glad the American public is somewhat more nuanced than the Democratic leadership. Turns out, the public is upset about the war, but doesn't necessarily desire the precipitous loss there that Democrats want. Turns out, the public is upset about the war, but its outlook is affected by progress on the ground. Turns out, this bursts a couple bubbles on the Left, which is caught trying to do the lose-at-all-costs bidding of Code Pink for a public that remains red, white and blue.

But what the year has mostly highlighted is that Democrats and anti-war activists were in the grip of two illusions after their triumph in the 2006 elections.

The first illusion is that taking power on Capitol Hill was by its very nature — no matter the precise legislation that emerged — something that would alter the basic dynamics of Iraq policy.

Instead, it’s now clear that even a weakened, and in many ways discredited, president remains the dominant policymaker on Iraq.

And, then there's the do-nothing label they're stuck with after only trying to accomplish one thing and failing miserably:

The second illusion is that Democrats could stall substantively and still prosper politically.

A few months ago, many lawmakers were saying something like this: “It’s true we can’t force Bush’s hand on Iraq because we do not have veto-proof majorities. But the longer he sticks with an unpopular war, the better it will be for Democrats, and eventually the moderates and war skeptics in the GOP will stage a full revolt.”

This might yet come true by the next election, in 2008. For now, it looks like substantive weakness — the failure to drive policy changes on Iraq — has reinforced political weakness.

“Republicans (including the president) have made real progress in swaying opinion to their side, while 10 months of Democratic efforts have failed to persuade citizens that the war continues to be a disaster,” according to Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who analyzed public opinion on the nonpartisan Pollster.com.

Meanwhile, these are the top two stories on Iraq in the NYT and WaPo, respectively, today (not on the front page, of course):

In Mixed Slice of Baghdad, Old Bonds Defy War, about a Baghdad neighborhood tied together by years of tradition despite ethnic divisions that has come together to protect itself from extremists:

Abu Nawal, the father, recounted how a group of men from the office of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr came to a local cafe, proposing to set up shop in the area. The cafe owner pointed to a sign, which stated in dark script that all discussions of politics and religion were prohibited. The men were then asked to leave.

“The guys in the neighborhood said, ‘If you try to make an office here, we will explode it,’” said Abu Nawal, a shoemaker, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for four generations.

Some Restrictions to Be Lifted in Baghdad, about how Iraqi military commanders feel secure in shifting the focus of the Baghdad security initiative from military crackdown to providing basic security and services. Could be a political move more than anything, since American troops will continue to secure areas, but here's the idea, from Iraqi officials:

“The first phase of the operation was represented by the deployment of military units,” General Moussawi said. “The second stage is purging the areas, securing them, bringing back displaced families and providing them with services. The last stage will be to hand over security responsibilities.”

He said, “We are in the phase of handing over the security responsibility from the army and national police to the local police of these areas.”

U.S. Military Reversing Iraq Troop Surge, a story about how the military is about the test the results of the surge by bringing several brigades home.
The current total of 20 combat brigades is shrinking to 19 as the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, operating in volatile Diyala province, leaves. The U.S. command in Baghdad announced on Saturday that the brigade had begun heading home to Fort Hood, Texas, and that its battle space will be taken by another brigade already operating in Iraq.
And, U.S. and Iraq Troops Kill 15 Gunmen in Big Battle.

Finally, if you want the real dirt on why American troops are succeeding and Democrats are falling flat when it comes the Iraq policy, visit my buddy Bill Roggio's The Long War Journal. Visit, bookmark, visit again, and learn more and better info than the NYT and WaPo will bother to tell you.