IRAQ: GROTESQUER AND GROTESQUER.

IRAQ: GROTESQUER AND GROTESQUER. Sam sounds a powerful call in his last post:

While Reid's line on this, taken word for word, is quite logical and in keeping with his call for withdrawal, I too must admit to yearning for a cessation of all deliberate ambiguities and bank-shot calculations in Democrats' stated reactions to the president's Iraq plans, now that the policy direction under discussion is set so squarely in the face of overwhelming public opinion, as well as basic humanity.

Of course I'm sympathetic to this. But I don't want to see the right succeed at hoisting the albatross of the lost Iraq war around the left's neck. That will get us two, three, many Iraqs.

It goes a little something like this (hit it): Democrats take over Congress in 2007. Bush begins a troop increase, allegedly in the name of bringing the war to a desirable conclusion. It has all sorts of anticipated ill effects: increased deaths, increased chaos, mounting strain on the military. Bush demonstrates no willingness to back down. Increasingly, liberal anti-war legislators in safely blue precincts calculate that the only way they can stop the war is to stop funding it. When other Democrats in the House and the Senate start equivocating on a funding cut-off, liberal activists start recruiting primary challengers who endorse the plan. Bush comes out swinging: "If they really want to end the war," he says again and again, "they should show where they stand and vote against funding the war." Karl Rove's plan is a simple one: facing a rising popular tide against the war in general, he needs to force the opposition into an antiwar position that isn't popular in particular -- like cutting off funding while the troops are in the field.

Let's say the Democrats do it. Congress cuts off the funding; the Dems win in 2008 as the Republicans descend into an acrimonious inter-party feud about the meaning of Iraq. With the Democrats in power, the troops come home, but the expected human calamity for the Iraqis materializes. Bush, in exile, starts saying how the war was on the verge of being turned around, but then the radical Democrats, in an anti-American frenzy, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Instantly, this becomes the Republican and conservative line -- the unprovable counterfactual that the war was about to be won. Over the next fifteen years, this becomes accepted wisdom. A younger generation of liberals, tired of being bludgeoned with the charge, more or less accepts it themselves. Another Republican gets elected, and sets to work combating Iraq Fatigue. We get another war.

Sound crazy? In every particular, it's happened before. It pains me to say it, but it's probably better over the long run to continue doing things like funding a God-awful war rather than allowing Bush to, as they say, heighten the contradictions.

--Spencer Ackerman

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