On a superficial level, Jackson Diehl makes some good points in his column, "Reclaiming the Democratic Agenda" - although the headline foreshadows its weaknesses. Diehl suggests that the Democrats should embrace an agenda to "win" in Iraq. Describing a book which outlines a possible agenda to bring some meaningful reform to the Middle East, Diehl laments,
Unfortunately, Pollack and his fellow Democrats acknowledge, no liberal policy in the Middle East will work if Iraq fails.No liberal policy? Even having acknowledged "Bush's cynical policy of demanding democracy from enemy regimes such as Iran and Syria while tolerating the continued autocracy of such friends as Egypt and Saudi Arabia", Diehl provides no explanation for what type of policy (liberal, conservative, or other) would succeed in the Middle East if Iraq fails. No matter how cynical you may be, or even if you would view it as a sufficiently successful conservative policy, it seems unlikely that the next Republican presidential candidate will be pitching a "Replace Hussein with a good totalitarian despot" policy.
While Democrats differ over whether the invasion was right, notes an introduction by Marshall and Jeremy Rosner, both national interests and national honor demand that "we not abandon the Iraqi people to chaos and sectarian violence."Maybe the candidate can pitch this new program as "victory with honor." That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? For that matter, is it necessary to speak of both "national interests" and "national honor", other than as a rhetorical tool to trap an opponent? After all, if a policy advances "national honor" but simultaneously undermines "national interests", sometimes you have to swallow your pride and do what is right for the country.
But seriously, why is it that only the Democrats are expected to formulate an advance a plan, while the Republicans are given carte blanche to propose the meaningless choice between "sticking it out" and "pulling out now"? If as the book Diehl endorses suggests, "President Bush and his team have mismanaged virtually every aspect of postwar reconstruction", aren't we continuing toward a point where "sticking it out" will leave us with no choice but to abandon Iraq, whatever the consequence to our national interests and honor?