The 20 percent or so of Americans who still think we're winning in Iraq happen to be the Republican base. And so the GOP in Congress has to pick between surviving their own primaries, maintaining civility with their own faithful, and potentially getting wiped out in the next election. The game of chicken is getting very intense. I guess we'll know how strong the kool-aid is by September.
The paradox, of course, is that a major source of disaffection with the war is from the right. Conservatives don't like half-assed wars - and this one has been under-planned, under-manned and chaotically strategized. Conservatives don't like losing wars; and this president has been overseeing meltdown in Iraq and war without end. Conservatives tend to think armies should be about fighting and winning conflicts; but Bush has forced the US military to be nation-builders, religious peace-makers, torturers, and civil war policemen. Conservatives believe wars should be in the national interest; and let's just say that grinding your military into the dust for the sake of "democracy" in a place where few even understand it and those who do have left is arguably not in the national interest.
And yet no major Republican candidate can yet express the sentiment articulated by William F. Buckley last week. McCain seems to be grappling toward such a posture. But the GOP would be well served by an actual debate on the war, how it's metastasized beyond the original purpose, how it's become a way to increase rather than reduce the terror threat, and how to win it or cut our losses. I see no way this necessary debate will happen unless an anti-war Republican runs for president. Senator Hagel, your time may be now.
(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty.)