The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ideological Paralysis

When Democratic leaders criticize George W. Bush, one of their major complaints is his inability to adapt his actions to ever changing events. They argue that he is doctrinaire and that his “pig-headed” approach to the war on terror and the war in Iraq has put our country in dire straits. There is little debate that the President is slow to adapt. Three years of flailing in Iraq prior to the surge indicate that his administration is not fast on its feet. But ideological paralysis and lack of adaptation is not unique to Bush.

Democratic leaders (and every Democratic presidential contender) also appear to suffer from ideological paralysis when it comes to Iraq. Bill Kristol (a neo-con who has been a consistent hawk on the Iraq war and is no friend of the Democrats) makes a few good points in today’s NYT:
When President Bush announced the surge of troops in support of a new counterinsurgency strategy a year ago, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Democratic Congressional leaders predicted failure. Obama, for example, told Larry King that he didn’t believe additional U.S. troops would “make a significant dent in the sectarian violence that’s taking place there.” Then in April, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, asserted that “this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything.” In September, Clinton told Gen. David Petraeus that his claims of progress in Iraq required a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

The Democrats were wrong in their assessments of the surge. Attacks per week on American troops are now down about 60 percent from June. Civilian deaths are down approximately 75 percent from a year ago. December 2007 saw the second-lowest number of U.S. troops killed in action since March 2003. And according to Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of day-to-day military operations in Iraq, last month’s overall number of deaths, which includes Iraqi security forces and civilian casualties as well as U.S. and coalition losses, may well have been the lowest since the war began.

Do Obama and Clinton and Reid now acknowledge that they were wrong? Are they willing to say the surge worked?

No. It’s apparently impermissible for leading Democrats to acknowledge — let alone celebrate — progress in Iraq. When asked recently whether she stood behind her “willing suspension of disbelief” insult to General Petraeus, Clinton said, “That’s right.”

I hate to say this, but it appears that despite both meaningful military and political progress (e.g., the recent passage of a de-Baathification law by Iraq’s parliament), the Dems themselves are now suffering from ideological paralysis. Their chances of capturing the Presidency would be greatly improved if they were to demonstrate to those of us in the Center that they are more concerned with our forward progress in Iraq than they are with shoring up a now obsolete mime.