The Surge: A Political Strategy

"This might all be a show. Because I think, at the end of the day, Bush may be the last neoconservative in office. And he seems, to me, to truly believe that this Iraq thing is not just a great idea, but it's actually working. `If you look outside Baghdad things are much better, we just need to get through this hump. Convince the American people to hang in there, and it's all gonna work out.' In other words, all these consultations - I think it may well be a charade. He just wants to double down."
 - Fareed Zakaria, The Daily Show, December 12th, 2006

Unfortunately, Fareed Zakaria's prediction has proven correct. President Bush is absolutely willing to ignore the will of the American people. "Stay the course" is alive and kicking in the Oval Office. But what are the Democrats doing?

The Democrats won a major victory in 2006 because the country wanted a change. The people were sick of corruption in Washington, they were sick of the stagnation in government and the failure to address important issues, but most importantly, they were sick of the war in Iraq. Polling data proves this. (1)

The Bush team's response, as always, is to attack the enemy's strength - in this case, Iraq. The surge strategy is a direct challenge to the new Congress. Do they have the guts to stand up to the President?

The surge is an effective political strategy because:

1. It shifts the debate. Before word of the surge, the debate centered on when to pull out of Iraq, and the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group. The surge has caused Democrats to stop talking about phased redeployment and instead move to "troop caps" or other weaker measures, in order to not appear too radical.

2. It attacks the Democrats at their most vulnerable point. Republican strategists noted that although Democrats (and the public) were united in their discontent with the President's current attack strategy, there was no consensus within the party on what to do about it. By forcing this surge immediately after the Democrats assumed power (and responsibility), the Republicans have highlighted and exacerbated weakness.

3. It sets the Democrats in a weaker position for the 2008 election. By November 2008, we will have experienced nearly two years of more bloodshed and chaos in Iraq. The surge will have failed. If elected Democrats continue on this course of inconsistency and  refusing to effectively challenge the President on the war, they will gain quite a bit of culpability.

Overall, it is a cleverly timed test of the will of the new Democratic majority. It does not make sense militarily, but it makes perfect sense politically.

The Democratic response has, unfortunately, mostly played into the GOP's hands. Squabbling over a non-binding resolution sponsored by old-guard politicos - Carl Levin and Joe Biden among others - gives the impression that Democrats are weak, divided and unwilling to challenge the President.

Similarly, Senator Clinton's muddled stance hurts the Democratic Party.

Of course, there are progressive thinkers in the Senate. Senators Russ Feingold, Barack Obama, Jim Webb, and Ted Kennedy understand the trap the Republicans have laid. John Murtha and others are resolute in the House. But can they shift the debate?

They need our support.

(1) - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/02/us/pol itics/02poll.html?ex=1320123600&en=3 07df668f49e0b07&ei=5088&partner= rssnyt&emc=rss

Tags: Barack Obama, Bush, Congress, Democrats, General 2008, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, Media, Republicans, Russ Feingold (all tags)

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