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Wishful Thinking on Iraq

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"Wishful Thinking on Iraq"

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I think Steve Teles’ views on what Democrats should do in congress are largely sound, but I worry about this: “When Rumsfeld out, the most important architect of the Iraq disaster is already gone. The Baker-Hamilton commission is moving, and Democrats should basically get behind what they recommend, so long as it is reasonable.”

This is a widespread sentiment, and I understand the instinct, but there’s a serious problem — most indications are that the commission isn’t going to recommend any one “thing” that Democrats can “get behind.” Instead, it’s going to try and clarify two or more different policy options. Consequently, folks are still going to have to make some decisions of their own. Given how unpalatable all the choices in Iraq are, it would be very, very nice to be able to, in effect, hide behind Jim Baker’s skirts on this, but by the same token the commission itself doesn’t want to offer up a definitive answer. At the end of the day, then, the tough reality is that you can’t outsource your decision-making on this to anyone else.

A related bit of wishful thinking I’ve heard from a bunch of people — particularly strategists associated with the “hawkish” tendency in the party — is that growing Republican concern with the politics of the war will, in effect, force the Republicans to end it all on their own. That could happen, but it’s unwise to bank on it. You’ll recall that these same people mostly thought Bush would declare victory and go home during the course of 2004. They also thought we’d see troop levels drawn down in 2005. And also that Bush would be looking to wind the war down in time for the midterms in 2006. This prediction keeps getting made, in other words, and it keeps not happening. That’s not to say it might not happen yet, but you can’t just assume it will.

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