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Democrats “recalibrate”

Posted by Richard on August 22, 2007

When the Iraqi people were risking their lives voting for an interim government, and then for a constitution, and finally, made Iraq the first constitutional republic in the Arab world, the Democrats dismissed or belittled those achievements. Look at all the violence and bloodshed, they said. Political progress means nothing in the face of the ongoing security nightmare, they said. Look at the factional fighting at the neighborhood level, they said.

Now that even Democrats visiting Iraq have to concede that the security situation has greatly improved, violence and bloodshed have all but disappeared in some of the formerly most problematic areas, and we're seeing more and more grassroots cooperation among factions, the Democrats have tweaked their message just a bit. Forget that stuff about political gains being irrelevant due to lack of military progress; now, military gains are irrelevant due to lack of political progress. The Washington Post tried its best to help them spin this shift (emphasis added):

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

GOP leaders have latched on to positive comments from Democrats — often out of context — to portray the congressional majority as splintering. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), an Armed Services Committee member who is close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said many of her colleagues learned a hard lesson from the Republican campaign.

"I don't know of anybody who isn't desperately supportive of the military," she said. "People want to say positive things. But it's difficult to say positive things in this environment and not have some snarky apologist for the White House turn it into some clipped phraseology that looks like support for the president's policies."

The Democrats are going to focus on the Maliki government's failure to meet congressional "benchmarks" for political progress — benchmarks, BTW, written by congressional Democrats to be as unreachable as they could make them. When you're listening to carping about the Iraqi political situation, try to keep two things in mind:

  • The Iraqi parliament has accomplished far more legislatively this year than the U.S. Congress (not that I'm complaining about our "do-nothing" Congress; I'm greatly relieved that Pelosi and Reid have fulfilled almost none of their promises). And they're sharing oil revenue with all the provinces, even though the oil revenue legislation hasn't been finalized.
  • Slow political progress at the national level in Iraq has spurred progress at the provincial, local, and grassroots level. Formerly irreconcilable tribal and ethnic/religious factions are sitting down and reaching agreements. Town councils are springing up and working with coalition troops to solve local infrastructure and security problems.

The slow pace at the national level may actually redound to the long-term benefit of the young Iraqi democracy — it's much better for Iraqi political solutions to grow from the grassroots up than to be imposed from the top down. 

Someone should try to explain that to the arrogant Sen. Levin, who seems to think Iraq's prime minister serves at the pleasure of the U.S. Congress. 

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