THEY WERE AGAINST SOMETHING AFTER THEY WERE FOR SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENT! Glenn Reynolds approvingly links to this silly post by the Anchoress (while calling John Kerry a flip-flopper for--like Bush--supporting one funding plan and not another, ha ha, that never gets tired!). Noam Scheiber (discussing a similar use of this sophistry by Rich Lowry) has already dealt with the idea that if you supported some number of additional troops at some previous historical juncture, it's hypocritical to oppose the specific plan put forward by Bush:

Alas, there are a couple of conditions that must obtain before Lowry's point will hold water:

1.) It is only possible -- both practically and theoretically -- to expand the U.S. presence in Iraq by a one-off addition of 20,000 troops. So, for example, if we have 140,000 troops in Iraq, and someone says "more troops," then the only way to interpret their suggestion is: "add 20,000 troops." Or if we have 10,000 troops in Iraq and someone says "more troops," then the only way to interpret their suggestion is, again: "add 20,000 troops." Finally, if we have 300,000 troops in Iraq and someone says "more troops," then there is only one way to interpret their suggestion: "add 20,000 troops."

2.) The only window of time in which troops can be added is January through March of 2007. At no time beforehand--in particular, March of 2003 through December of 2006--could troops have been added.

3.) The decision to add troops should have nothing whatsoever to do with the likelihood that those troops will help the United States succeed in Iraq.

If conditions 1 through 3 obtain, then I concede that Democrats are being clever and petulant, as Lowry suggests. After all, they used to believe we needed more troops in Iraq. And we know from conditions 1 through 3 that calls for more troops could only have meant adding 20,000 troops between January and March of this year, and that their suggestion was completely independent of the troops' likelihood of success. So any Democrat who claimed we needed "more troops" back in, say, 2003, must have really meant "add 20,000 troops in the winter of 2007, regardless of whether or not it makes a difference by that point."

If by some chance conditions 1 through 3 don't obtain, however, then I hope Lowry will concede that his criticism was, you know, a tad unfair.

Indeed. For the record, my own position is that a much larger invasion force might have produced a more palatable outcome, although (given that Iraq didn't constitute a remotely substantial security threat) certainly not enough to justify the immense human and financial costs of the war. Adding a relatively trivial number of troops at this late date, however, is just cynical politics by a desperate and inept President, nothing more, and certainly the fact that one favored a more serious counterinsurgency campaign in 2003 is neither here nor there in terms of whether Bush's 2007 plan is a good idea.

--Scott Lemieux

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