Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Ditto Dems

I kvetched earlier about pundits on the right claiming victory where none existed. Dems, that goes for you too. The talk of the left is awash in triumphant, self-congratulating encomia (aside from James Carville's bizarre call for DNC chairman Howard Dean to resign immediately after the electoral victory). As I voted democratic across the board in this election, I would like to remind my new representatives (even though nothing actually changed for me at the federal level, I feel the party should be beholden to me nonetheless) that they didn't win squat. Stop patting yourselves on the back; this was the kind of contest that, if it were a sports game, I would have wished both teams could be handed a loss.

What was the Democratic platform for this election? I paid very close attention to every candidate I could find time to follow, and they all had only one thing to say: "I'm not Republican." Minor variations included "I don't like the war" and "I do not support Bush." Yeah, the Republicans were fools to have hitched their wagon so tightly to Bush, and to have unflinchingly defended our clusterfuck of a war long after that ceased to be a reasonable option. But Dems have inherited an intractable problem that they themselves have made political anathema. They now face a terrible dilemma: they can stay in Iraq and try to win, in which case they will almost certainly face the same wrath of the electorate that Republicans recently did, or they can high-tail it out of there and let the devil take the hindmost. Based on the implied promises of this campaign cycle, they will certainly opt for the latter.

Some may object that I have presented a false dichotomy; we have the intermediate option phased troop withdrawals, essentially a downscaling of the war. Bollocks to that. First, there is a limit to how half-assedly you can fight a war and still call it that, and the Dems' cutbacks promise to be massive. Even if they are not, remember that one of the greatest criticisms of the war, now advanced even by its erstwhile proponents, is that we never had enough troops to begin with. If we maintain a further diminished troop presence, they will hardly be more than armed spectators. More importantly, it is doubtful that the electorate would tolerate even that. Americans by and large want our hands washed of that godforsaken place right now; they want OUT. So while I concede that the notion of a phased withdrawal is valid, I contend that it is purely hypothetical. In actual policy terms, what we choose to do will effectively amount to either staying or leaving. Recall that our hastily-bid adieu to Vietnam was not a retreat; it was a "phased departure." We will most likely do the same in Nam 2.0; declare victory and leave.

I have opposed this war since it was just a gleam in the President's eye, but there is one thing his (former) people got right. Colin Powell said from the beginning, "If you break it, you bought it." Damn right, and we definitely broke it. If I may wax romantic, I do indeed believe that we are honor bound to help the hapless Iraqis who have suffered for our ostensible national interests. Regardless, the care with which we extricate ourselves from this imbroglio is of legitimate concern to national security, far more so than our initial incursion. Lately we have been speaking with powerful nations in the area about adopting our soon-to-be-bastard Iraqi government. Who can we trust over there? No one, of course, but we've been speaking with Syria and Iran. I will write more about this later, but suffice it to say that leaving a vacuum of power to be filled by these two (or even any of their competitors of whom I'm aware) would be perilous in the extreme. Syria is a known, prolific sponsor of terror, with a history of projecting its will internationally; Lebanon has long been a proxy for Syrian-funded terrorists to attack Israel. Syria is also dominated by the Baath Party, and in fact many of Saddam's loyalists fled there when his government was deposed in 2003. They may simply return from exile to reestablish the government whose existence was intolerable. Imagine how dangerous Iraq could be now that even the peons, and not just the ruling elite, hate us.

The same goes for Iran. Its truly evil aspirations were once checked by the rival power to the West. Even if Iran does not grow stronger through consolidating the Iraqi Shia under its banner (which seems almost inevitable), it gains simply from the fall of Iraq, who will not longer be able to foil Iran's most militaristic ambitions.

We broke it. Destabilizing the region could prove far more dangerous than having never meddled there at all. I do not envy the Dems; now they have control and they must be the ones to buy it. They have basically promised not to, and I believe they won't. This is a tragedy.

Our foreign policy may be hopeless, even if the Dems had the balls that I know they don't. But there are plenty of domestic issues that they can fix, and I won't stand for anymore kudos to anyone until they get fixed. Are they going to institute aggressive measures for limiting carbon emissions and funding alternative energy? Fund stem cell research? De-politicize the FDA? Axe the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act? Prosecute warrantless wiretapping? I hope that they will stand up for the Constitution and declare once and for all that this is a secular nation, and that means that nobody's book can tell the government what to do. The stemming of the theocratic tide in our country has much bigger implications than boys kissing, and needless to say, this is just a partial list.

Face it Dems, you are not winners. You are merely the beneficiaries of an opponent so corrupt, incompetent, arrogant, hypocritical, and out of touch with America, you could hardly but win. And, for shame, a lot of us still thought you would blow it. Show us something, and we'll be the ones to hand out the accolades. Until then, you've got a lot of work to do.

Update: According to WaPo, William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution agrees with me on how we should depart from Iraq:

"I think it's important to distinguish between the desire to bring this agony to an end and the consequences of bringing it to an end in the wrong way," he said. "I can't prove this, but I believe Democrats will be held responsible if they are seen as advocating a course of action that doesn't take the consequences of failure into account. We cannot afford as a party to be either silent or blithe about the consequences of rapid withdrawal."