Is the war won? Probably not. Is it going much better for Iraq and for us? Certainly. This was certified by the big three-column headline in last Tuesday's New York Times. And even big-time opponents of what they had come to think of as the president's own demented enterprise are beginning to admit it. The news is very difficult for those folk because many of them had drawn outlandish conclusions about the future of American power in the Middle East. Actually, about its passing.
The New Yorker was, as`recently as September, already "Planning for Defeat," telling its readers how we should "withdraw from Iraq." Would it, unplanned and reckless, be a "Saigon moment," as other seers predicted?
The front page of this Sunday's Times carries a headline, "As Democrats See Security Gains in Iraq, Tone Shifts." It parses the predicaments of the party's various presidential candidates, and this parsing puts Hillary Clinton in the most advantageous position largely because she had put herself in opposition to the war without committing herself to a scheduled troop withdrawal. This is an opportunity for more fudging on her part but the kind of fudging that would reassure hard-liners, if they could be reassured by Hillary at all.
The more favorable the situation in Iraq the more difficult it becomes for the other aspirants for the nomination. As anyone who watches the candidates will know they are now switching, quite desperately, to a domestic agenda. The problem with this tactic is that their strategies -- and the strategy of the party itself -- had been built on the utter disaster that was imagined to be unfolding in Iraq. After all, the House has just passed a bill to withdraw American troops by exactly a year from now.
Forgive another reference to Vietnam. I believe that, in 1972, when George McGovern had been anointed the Democratic candidate, the nominee and many of his devotees actually wanted a North Vietnamese victory over the South and its U.S. allies. The American electorate had an intuition that this was the case, and it repelled them. Hence sanctimonious George winning in only one state.
There is no exact parallel to this for 2008. But I suspect that many Democrats are so deeply hostile to a forward foreign policy and their minds so deeply embedded in the notion that you can negotiate successfully with fanatics and tyrants that they wouldn't mind a prophylactic victory for the enemy. Which raises the question: is this enemy their enemy? I suspect not.
And so here is the timeless wisdom of the Speaker of the House: "The fact is, we can no longer sustain the military deployment in Iraq."