Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dems get moderate on Iraq

I might have written this legislation myself:

House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country's leaders fail to meet promises to help reduce violence there, party officials said Thursday.

As I've argued: the surge is Bush's last chance, and if it doesn't show results, it's over.

Equally practically, if somewhat less laudibly, the Dems found a way to have their cake and eat it too on the Murtha "back-door withdrawal" proposal.

The plan would retain a Democratic proposal prohibiting the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training or who already have served there for more than a year. Under the plan, such troops could only be sent to Iraq if
President Bush waives those standards and reports to Congress each time.

So they get to make their point and force Bush to repeatedly waive training standards, but they don't actually tie his hands. They also committed to funding the surge and the rest of Bush's Iraq request.

So combine this with the earlier "anti-surge" resolutions, and you have a fairly clear line: Democrats are giving Bush enough rope either to succeed or hang himself. If the surge fails, the troops will come home and the Dems will ride the issue in the presidential campaign. If it succeeds, Bush will have a minor triumph on his hands.

But the Dems are positioning themselves for both eventualities. Though a successful surge will make their anti-surge resolutions look defeatist, they will be able to point to their funding vote and make two claims: One, that they gave Bush the chance to try the surge, so he doesn't deserve sole credit; and two, that their threat to withdraw funding is what finally made the Iraqis sit up and fly straight. In other words, everyone will rush to embrace the success, with at least a modicum of credibility.

Still, if the surge succeeds, the credit will largely belong to Bush, because while he came to the "we need more troops" realization a couple of years too late, he will have been the one who said "this can still be salvaged" after everyone else had given up.

Stay tuned.

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