Regrettably, that's what I think Democrats' weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Iraq mess is likely to come to for the next 490 days. Not because we're in the wrong, not because we're weak, not because we can't mobilize the people behind us, and not for lack of trying to extricate ourselves from this ginormous clusterfuck that the Boy Who Would Be King seems bound and determined to do his utmost to strap on the back of whoever manages to supplant him 491 days from now.
No, I think our basic problem goes far beyond the superficialities I just mentioned. (Not, regrettably, that my saying so is likely to put an early or a permanent end to the sort of circular firing-squad that seems to break out with great regularity in Left Blogistan these days.) The problem, as I see it, with our arguments is that we are assuming our opponents are behaving rationally. They're not, and they never have been. They're behaving tactically and largely as they have been conditioned to do for decades, from a place of primal fear.
There are, indeed, all manner of perfectly reasonable, rational arguments for why we should never have gone into Iraq in the first place. There are even more perfectly rational, reasonable arguments for why, having gone there, we should now get the hell out with even more speed than we went in. (One of the biggest among them being the survey results in Anbar, the province that the Pretzelnit has now decided is going to be his benchmark du jour of success in Iraq, showing that every single respondent wants our troops the fuck out of their front yards, and three-fourths of them think we should leave right now.)
All of that means bupkes to the Republicans, who have somehow morphed Iraq into a national test of machismo such that if we leave, we'll show the world we're a bunch of
cheese-eating surrender monkeys wimps, and so pretty soon the terrrrrists we aren't fighting over there will be showing up on our lawns. A slightly different but related spin is the one the ludicrously named "Freedom's Watch" is trying to put out in its not-exactly-accurate slew of ads demanding that Congress accede to the president's intent to ram his war down the throat of the next president because otherwise the sacrifices we have already made will have been in vain.
I hate to be the one to break the news, sweeties, but there is literally nothing that your man in the White House, anybody in Congress, the entire Orcosphere, or even Superman could do that would prevent those sacrifices from being in vain. They were in vain, they will always have been in vain, and that should have been obvious to any reasonably sentient being with three or more functioning brain cells as long ago as March 2003. That it was not is a sad commentary on the way in which the media, the punditocracy, and, yes, the political parties have managed to debase our national discourse to the point that people are no longer capable of recognizing logical fallacies when they are flung nightly at their heads.
We've been conditioned not to respond rationally to what we see on the news. Instead, they want us to respond viscerally. We're supposed to get angry when we see the body of an American soldier being dragged through the streets of some Middle Eastern town, because they don't want us asking ourselves what that soldier was doing on those streets in the first place. Similarly, we're just supposed to wet ourselves a bit whenever anybody on television says the word "terror" or anything derived from or metonymically related to it. We're not supposed to stop and think about the fact that our "war" on terror (because wars on nouns always work--see Poverty, War on and Drugs, War on for further information) might actually be contributing to the problem instead of solving it. We're just supposed to clutch our steering wheels a little more tightly as we drive off to Mall-Wart to buy more cheap plastic crap imported from a country that we hope isn't going to announce another product recall this week, and meekly take off our shoes whenever we step anywhere near an airport line, because that's what our paternalistic poltroons have told us to do.
The Democrats don't have a veto-proof majority in either house of Congress. In fact, they don't have much of a majority in either house of Congress, either. To get where we want to go, we have to be able to attract enough Republican votes to reach two-thirds plus one. That's a damn hard row to hoe, particularly when we're in an election year (for all intents and purposes). Yes, Republicans in Congress want to be able to distance themselves from the Hedgemony (or at least the smarter ones do). But they have to do that in such a way that it flies beneath the radar of the Republican base--because otherwise they're absolutely sure not to get re-elected in 2008. The Republican base is, I'm sorry to have to say it, unreachable. Somewhere, I feel certain, B. F. Skinner is smiling as he looks down on what may be the most perfectly conditioned bunch of people ever to exist. They're much like those old "See 'n' Say" toys that Fisher Price made in my youth--wind them up and turn the pointer to a particular issue (gay marriage, say), and once you push the button, out come the pre-digested talking points du jour. The Republican base only watches Fox News, is convinced that there is a great liberal conspiracy to pervert the truth around every corner, distrusts anyone who doesn't sound the proper dog-whistle every 15 seconds to reassure them that he's coming from the right place, hates academics, doesn't understand statistics, and is seemingly incapable of recognizing how their every vote mitigates against their own self-interest.
We could drown these people in data, beat them about the head and shoulders with reams of facts, spin the soundest, most valid, and most devastating arguments since William of Ockham--and we'd still not be able to convince them of the soundness of our position. So unless we can somehow find a way to package rationality in such a way that it appeals, not to our minds but to our guts, and give it more oomph than the other side is giving to its propaganda--and I'm not so sure that even if such a means exists, it would be ethical or moral to employ it--we're more than likely to have to endure another 490 days of frustration when it comes to Iraq.
The thing we shouldn't do in response, though, is what a lot of people in Left Blogistan seem to be doing--and that's hanging up the gloves, throwing in the towel, starving the beast, and/or insisting that they're going to hunt for some other party that will better represent them and their interests. There ain't no such animal, folks. And the Democrats' record on this issue isn't for a lack of resolve or of effort. It's just that there comes a point when beating your head against a 10-foot-thick brick wall hurts you more than it hurts the wall. We're more or less to that point on Iraq. The best we can likely hope for in the present political circumstances is to squeeze in a few largely cosmetic measures like the Webb amendment that would mandate as much R&R time at home for combat units as they've spent in combat. We're unlikely to be able to cut off all funding for the war, we are absolutely not going to be able to mandate troop reductions (because the Constitution doesn't give Congress the authority to manage a war, just to pay for it), and the odds that anyone from the Hedgemony is actually going to be impeached before noon on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 are significantly smaller than the odds that I'll win the next Mega Millions jackpot. (Note to self: see if it's worth buying tickets this week.)