I missed Ezra Klein’s riff on my Iraq update in the middle of last week, but you shouldn’t: he raises some interesting points.
The question of whether the Congressional Democrats should continue to press their efforts to end the war remains one of the thorniest imaginable: Carl Levin’s withdrawal bill this week had the virtue of being (a) fundamentally correct and (b) tacitly supported by a majority of Iraq experts I’ve spoken with in the Bush Administration (but not in the White House), who believe that there is leverage to be had from a carefully managed withdrawal–i.e. that it’s the best weapon we have now to force the Iraqis into a long-term political solution. (Although I remain convinced that precise timetables and end dates are counterproductive–the pace of the withdrawal should be determined by events, with the iron-clad stipulation that the U.S. will keep no permanent bases in Iraq.)
On the other–tactical, political–hand, the Congressional Democrats’ constant charging uphill into Presidential vetoes on Iraq seems to be contributing to the impression that they are incompetent. They are not going to win any of these votes. I’m not sure what they are accomplishing at this point, especially with the level of violence diminishing on the ground.This may well haunt them on election day 2008.
The bottom line remains the President’s irresponsibility. He has abdicated his power to a General who lacks the distance and authority to act on the larger strategic picture. Petraeus is doing his job–and more successfully than anyone could have expected. But the solution to Iraq, if one exists, isn’t to be had on the battlefield. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that the battle is waning. It’s time for us to start leaving–for the sake of our troops and for the sake of the Iraqis.
Bush’s inability to take advantage of this moment is the latest example of the witless, lethal ineptitude that he has exhibited from the start on Iraq. It continues, it never ends.