Denver — Yesterday, I once again watched Speaker Nancy Pelosi stubbornly deny the success of the surge. Under questioning from Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, Pelosi insisted that — despite dramatic improvements on the ground — the surge has not been successful because “the Iraqi government has not stepped up to the plate. . . . ” Her opposition, in the interview and elsewhere, is built on naming three pieces of stalled Iraqi legislation. (Hmm, can you name three pieces of stalled U.S. legislation?)
This remains the only anti-surge talking point on the Left. One problem, though: it’s no longer true — especially in light of the Iraqi government’s “surge” to autonomy, which is emblematic of their newfound political aptitude. The Maliki government has passed 15 of the 18 political benchmarks our Congress laid before it, not to mention taking on rogue Shia militias throughout the country and bringing the largest Sunni political party back into the fold. It’s not a beacon of democracy yet, but it is Iraq-ocracy.
In light of this indisputable political progress and the dramatic drop in violence in Iraq — which Brokaw referenced — Pelosi’s position is a radical one. Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect such political talking points from Ms. Pelosi — nothing short of a Planned Parenthood in every Iraqi village would denote success for her. But what of the man who has pledged to usher in a new kind of politics?
Senator Barack Obama has done his best to make it appear as if he has embraced the surge, noting in his VFW speech last week, that “gains have been made in lowering the level of violence” (note that passive construction) and that Iraq’s Security Forces have “increase[ed] capacity.” Such factual acknowledgements are welcome. Yet when actually pressed on the subject he continues to insist — as does Pelosi — that the surge has not worked. He is effectively embracing the surge without embracing it at all.
Obama has gone so far as to insist — when pressed by Katie Couric last month — that if given the opportunity to support or oppose the surge again, he would still oppose it. So, on one hand, Obama recognizes success in Iraq. But on the other hand, he still opposes the American policy that fostered that success. In Obama’s mind, this is not a contradiction.
The reason why is that Obama won’t admit that the gains we’ve seen in Iraq are at all related to the surge. He knows things have improved in Iraq — even on the political front — but credits everything but the surge strategy and U.S. troops for those improvements. Sure, he’ll say on the stump that “our troops have accomplished every mission” and “they have performed brilliantly.” But in the very next breath, he’ll deny that they were responsible for the success (remember: “gains have been made”). It seems as if nothing good can possibly have come from U.S. military policy in Iraq simply because it went ahead without Obama’s blessing.