Saturday, January 26, 2008


Democratic Perfidy

Its not a narrative, its the truth

Johathan Rauch was startled by the reaction of a conservative crowd to a Bernard Lewis comment. Having been asked how things were going in Iraq, Lewis replied that conditions had improved there and would continue to improve "unless we are betrayed from within."

What startled Rouch was that "no one showed surprise or discomfort" at the remark.

Noting the sharp partisan differences over the war, he worries about the consequences of a partisan retreat:
As painful and polarizing as party-line warfare has been, however, a party-line retreat would be worse. Many Republicans believe victory (however defined) is a matter of American resolve. Quite a few think that President Bush’s new strategy is working but that Democrats won’t admit it. They think Democrats are intentionally undermining the war effort, in order to improve their own political prospects by giving President Bush and the Republicans—oh, and the country—a black eye.

So begins the narrative of betrayal: the “stab in the back” narrative, as its historical precedents (most famously in interwar Germany) have been called. “We never really lost,” goes this narrative. “We defeated ourselves.” Or, in the really toxic version: “Some of us defeated the rest.” This kind of narrative, if it develops a popular following, can poison politics for a generation.

We can assume that if the Iraq War ends badly, some Republican hard- liners, amplified by conservative talk radio, will accuse the Democrats of perfidy. The question is: Will the betrayal narrative find traction with the broader American public? In particular, will mainstream Republicans buy into it? Or will cooler heads prevail, so the country can heal and move on?
The "some of us defeated the rest" narrative which Rauch so fears is exactly the narrative which a large majority of Republicans will believe, because it will be true. Victory, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda (who we are still fighting in Iraq) is largely a matter of American resolve and the Democrats have done everything possible to undermine it and instead bolster the resolve of the enemy. Perfidious an apt description of their behavior regarding the war effort.

Rauch believes that our withdrawal from Iraq is inevitable. I agree, but only in the way that our withdrawal from Germany is inevitable. Just not imminent as many liberals wish. Liberals should simply accept this and move on.

Bye the way, why is it that when liberals win a policy argument conservatives are supposed to just 'move on' but when conservatives win a policy argument liberals either repackage the same argument or (more usually) continue making the same argument over and over again?


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