Bipartisan Agreement: War Must Not Be Criticized!

Rich Lowry, National Review, September 1, 2006:

On Iraq, the Democrats are the party of defeat. That’s not a partisan smear, but a fact. The further we slide toward defeat, the higher the Democrats’ political fortunes rise. To the extent they offer any clear policy alternative for Iraq, it is either — depending on your point of view — to admit, or to guarantee, defeat with a rapid drawdown of American troops. So their political self-interest objectively coincides with a defeat, and the kind of pullout endorsed at times by high-profile leaders in the party would hasten it.

[...]

The Democrats don’t offer stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks, but instead a dreary recitation of mistakes in the war leavened with little hope or positive policy proposals. They don’t talk of the need of maintaining our national will or the need for patience in waging a difficult and irregular war, but emphasize our casualties and the fact that the Iraq War has already dragged on longer than World War II.

DNC Spokesman Brad Woodhouse, via Ben Smith:

Here goes Michael Steele setting policy for the GOP again. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be interested to hear that the Republican Party position is that we should walk away from the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job. They'd also be interested to hear that the Chairman of the Republican Party thinks we have no business in Afghanistan notwithstanding the fact that we are there because we were attacked by terrorists on 9-11.

And, the American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are 'comical' and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan. It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.

Embattled RNC Chairman Michael Steele was caught on video at a recent fundraiser saying, "The one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed." He also described the war as one "of Obama's choosing."

Look, Steele's characterization of the Afghanistan War as having been started by Obama is transparently ridiculous. But the DNC is essentially mining the Republican lexicon from 2003-2008, accusing Steele of "rooting for failure," demanding that we "finish the job" and accusing Steele of deliberately trying to "undermine the morale of our troops." I'm old enough to remember two or three years ago when Democrats saw this as "attacking people's patriotism" and thought it didn't have any place in public discourse.

Steele, however foolishly he made his point, wasn't undermining the troops, and his criticism, even if made in bad faith, echoes that of many Democratic voters. As Greg Sargent writes:

But Steele didn't "root for failure" anywhere. And he isn't really "betting against our troops." He's saying that this an inherently unwinnable situation, however brave and tough the troops are. I don't know if that's what he believes, but that's what he said.

It ought to be acceptable in public discourse for political figures to disagree with American foreign policy without it being suggested that doing so is inherently disloyal. It's disgraceful that there now seems to be a bipartisan accord that being skeptical of American military intervention abroad is by definition unacceptable. How foolishly shortsighted of the Democrats, who will never be able to deploy this script as effectively as their Republican opponents.

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