The Left and Iraq

If the Democrats are smart, they will immediately start figuring out and debating the way in which the US withdraws and redeploys in Iraq. How we do this strikes me as more important than the simple fact that we will do it. How do we do so while strengthening the Anbar tribes' hand against al Qaeda? Which of the Shiite and Sunni factions are we going to grant more sway in Baghdad as we disengage? How do we keep control of the Turkish-Kurdish border? What constellation of diplomatic initiatives best complements the withdrawal - and what is our game-plan? All I can say is that I hope someone in the Pentagon and State Department is figuring a serious strategy out. The Darfur Dems, in particular, are going to have a serious quandary if they do not advance a realistic and hard-nosed strategy for the most advantageous withdrawal - for the West and our friends. They're against a genocide in Africa but in favor of one directly precipitated by US forces in Iraq? Run that by me one more time.

As Spencer Ackerman points out, Memorial Day is also a good time to remember that the troops themselves may not all be glad to be given their marching orders:

The uncomfortable reality is this: nothing in Iraq worth fighting for remains achievable, and nothing achievable in Iraq remains worth fighting for. Democrats have made the decision rightly, I think that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of many bad options. But they shouldn't kid themselves into thinking that a majority of the troops doing the fighting agree with them. For soldiers like Lieutenant Wellman, this will be hard to accept. As he told me of war doubters back home, "I don't want them to just support the troops. I want them to support the mission." This matters, because pretending that in ending the war they're doing the troops a favor hurts Democrats politically. They risk looking condescending, and, worse, oblivious which has the broader effect of undermining public trust in the Democrats to handle national security. More basically, it does a disservice to those who serve. For soldiers who are optimistic, being told that the war can't be won is bad enough. But to be told that politicians are doing them a favor by extricating them from a mission they believe in is downright insulting.

The moment of maximal Democratic political ease may be this summer. It gets much more complicated after that.