From the start, Democrats ought to concede one big point: Absent any readiness on their part to cut off funds to the troops in Iraq, those forces will be there as long as George Bush wants them to remain. Once that point is conceded, Bush should be called upon to pay some attention to the Democrats' demands -- and the public opinion that supports them.This not only isn't an ideal solution; it's no solution at all. In fact, it's plain idiocy. The leverage the Democrats have over Bush is that-backed by public opinion-they are willing to eventually cut funds to end the war. Uncertain timetables, undefinable goals, "suggestions" for what the Iraqi government should do, are worse than useless. Even if legislation containing such binding provisions survives a veto, it gives President Bush the flexibility to avoid actually having to do anything in Iraq for as long as he possibly can. The Bush administration will argue that the surge is working, spin the numbers coming out of Iraq, and stall for time, all the while asserting that they're meeting the requirements of any of these proposals. And we can look forward to a delay in withdrawal or redployment for just that much longer. Broder says there are all these things President Bush should do, but nowhere does he tell us exactly how the Democrats are supposed to force Bush to actually do any of these things absent threats to cut off funds for the war. I suppose they should just meet with him and sternly lecture him until he comes around.
At a minimum, he should say he is willing to enforce on our Iraqi allies the requirements everyone knows are necessary steps for a political settlement of the internal conflict: the agreement on distribution of oil revenue, the promised amendments to the constitution, the creation of local and regional governments. Bush should indicate publicly -- for the sake of American public opinion and as a clear signal to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- that without those pledges being met, he cannot justify the sacrifices American troops are making.
And Bush should reinforce Gen. David Petraeus's promise to keep Congress apprised of the situation in Iraq by offering -- and keeping -- his own pledge to give Americans regular, honest briefings on the progress there.
That is not an ideal solution, from anyone's point of view.
And Broder makes the idiotic assumption that I see on far too many blogs and in far too many newspapers that because Democrats can not successfuly cut off funds now, they should completely admit defeat on the issue and resign themselves to 150,000 soldiers in Iraq for the next year and 9 months. Does the man have no understanding of politics whatsoever? Is there any political party in America that simply throws their ideas out to the four winds and, upon realizing they don't have the support to win right then and there, completely withdraws them and agrees to go along with the opposition's plan for the indefinite future? That's stupid. No, what's really happening is that public opinion is slowly but surely turning more and more against the war, and to take advantage of that, assertive Democrats will tell the public that the only way to get out of Iraq is to let them pass legislation cutting off funding for more than just training and anti-terrorism missions. They will say it again and again and again, and as more and more people turn against the war, more and more people will start to think that the Democrats are on to something. If they do that, I promise you that by the end of the year, we will no longer be talking about this ridiculous belief that there's no way to even begin the drawdown until 2009.
It pains me to think that somewhere on Capital Hill, some Democrat is reading this and thinking "Yes, sadly, this is all we can do." Actually, it pains me to think that anyone anywhere is reading this and thinking this is what will happen. If Broder thinks that Democrats will back off on the pledge to withdraw troops and Bush will suddenly come around on treating the opposition like part of the government of the country, then he's in for two surprises. But we won't be surprised at all.
UPDATE: Here's Bob Geiger, with some polling data that supports the Democrat's assertive approach on Iraq.