Beyond Backbone


Kevin Drum's right that it'll take more than backbone alone to end the Iraq War:

Maybe congressional Democrats need more backbone when it comes to Iraq, but as always, it's public opinion that's key. And public opinion just isn't as overwhelmingly on our side as we often like to think. Fix that, and we'll all be amazed at how fast Dems all grow a spine.

But here's the thing. Public opinion doesn't just "happen" -- effective political leaders shape public opinion. The polls show that the public wants a pony in Iraq: People don't want to beat a hasty retreat and they don't want a decade or more of occupation. What they want is to give the war a little more time and then for it to come to a successful conclusion. People in the know, however, realize that that's not a realistic course of action. The job of people who realize that it's not a realistic course of action and who favor a policy of perpetual occupation is to obscure the choices by doling the war out in Friedman Units and getting people to focus on the waxing and waning of the tactical situation -- if things get better, that's a reason to keep trying; if things get worse, that's a reason to hold on a bit until we can turn things around.

Conversely, the job of people who realize it's not a realistic course of action and who favor a policy of withdrawal and strategic reorientation is to heighten the contradictions (to coin a phrase) and make people realize that unless they want to commit to 10+ years of this, we might as well leave quickly and expeditiously. If the leaders of the Democratic Party were serious about ending the war, they'd be trying to do this -- trying to shape public opinion in a strategic way. Public opinion matters to all politicians, but serious political leaders don't just take opinion in passively -- they try to understand it and mold it to produce a political climate favorable to the policies they're trying to push.