So it shouldn't surprise anyone that a majority of americans want out, think the war -- and Bush's escalation of it -- has failed, and it was a mistake to invade in the first place.
The public sees the Iraq war as a failure and thinks the U.S. troop buildup there has not worked, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll suggesting the tough sell President Bush faces in asking Congress and voters for more time.
By 59 percent to 34 percent, more people said they believe history will judge the Iraq war a complete or partial failure than a success. Those calling it a failure included eight in 10 Democrats, three in 10 Republicans and about six in 10 independents, the poll showed -- ominous numbers for a president who hopes to use a nationally televised address later this week to keep GOP lawmakers from joining Democratic calls for a withdrawal.
Respondents saying the war will be remembered as a complete success were outnumbered 4 to 1 by those who said it was a complete failure, with only 7% seeing a brilliant final victory and 28% saying that it would be seeing total failure.
It says a lot about american opinion that so few would argue success. If you use Bush's original reasons to invade Iraq, it has been a success. There are no WMD and we've had regime change. If what Bush had said at the outset was true, then we'd have been done for a few years.
But people see what Bush really had in mind and it didn't have a damned thing to do with Saddam Hussein or WMD. It was about creating a new, USA-friendly democracy in the middle east. That doesn't seem very likely.
For their part, Congress's take on things seems to mirror the public's. Given Petreaus's and Crocker's big PR push for more war, they've reacted with skepticism -- at the very least.
In a piece titled, Congress unconvinced of 'surge' success, the Financial Times reports:
"Are we any closer to a lasting political settlement in Iraq at the national level today than we were when the surge began eight months ago?
"And if we continue to surge for another six months, is there any evidence that the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds will stop killing each other and start governing together?" asked Joseph Biden, Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.
"In my judgment... the answer to both those questions is no... without a settlement, the surge is at best a stopgap that delays, but will not prevent, chaos.
"Its net effect will be to put more American lives at risk, in my view, with very little prospect for success."
What I keep saying, what Biden is saying, and what everyone who's given it any thought is saying is that without political progress, military progress -- real or cooked up by the Ministry of Propaganda -- is meaningless. If the iraqi government is unable (or unwilling) to control what happens within their borders, nothing we do will change a damned thing.
But, when Bush asks for $50 billion to continue the war, Biden will vote to authorize it. So will a majority of dems.
The most popular explanation is that they're cowed by Bush. This seems unlikely to me, since Bush has no popular mandate for the war. Opposing Bush would come without consequence. Another explanation is that they want to keep the war going until 2008, so they can run against it. I'm not a big fan of that explanation, since it would mean that DC is lousy with very evil people.
My take is that they're afraid of perceived failure. When we pull out of Iraq, bad things will happen. And it doesn't make any difference if we do it now or ten years from now. There was no reason to go to Iraq in the first place and that renders the political situation there completely artificial. The presence of US troops is a factor in the political gameplaying in Iraq. In a nation divided along deeply sectarian lines, our presence helps some and hinders others. We're just the most powerful piece on someone else's chess board. The goals we meet in Iraq are not our own, but those of people who don't give a good goddam about us otherwise.
If we pull out, those political players will be forced to find some other, less artificial, way to achieve their ends -- and that means a period of violence and war. But it makes no difference when we pull out. Everyone knows the concept of a "power vacuum." We've created the opposite, call it a "power balloon." That power balloon doesn't fill a gap, it forces other powers outward, and forces american interests to the center. It creates the artificial political environment I've been talking about. For many political and sectarian groups in Iraq, this helps them by keeping their opponents from center stage. Politics in Iraq is all about the americans, when it should be all about iraqis. And it will continue to be all about the americans until the americans leave.
But leaving will remove that central political force in Iraq and that will create problems. And those problems -- or more specifically, the blame for those problems -- are what dems are afraid of and why they suffer attacks of political paralysis when they have the opportunity to bring us closer to ending this fiasco.
Personally, I don't think they should worry as much about it as they seem to be doing. I think the average american knows that violence will flare up in Iraq after we leave. Polls show they want out anyway.
My advice to dems is to listen to the people and, when 2008 comes around, run against George W. Bush. It doesn't make any difference who the GOP candidate is, all but one (who stands no hope in hell) supports the war, wiretaps, torturing prisoners, rendition, etc. The candidate who wins the primaries would be GWB's third term. Run against that.
Violence in Iraq, whether it happens now or five years from now, is the fault of the man who put troops there in the first place -- not the fault of whoever gets them out. If Congress takes a stand and tells Bush, "Not another dime without a timetable," I doubt there would be any political fallout.
People believe the war is already lost. It's hard to see how just accepting that fact would come with much of a pricetag.