The Magazine

Obama, Democrats, and the Surge

They were against it before it worked.

Jul 28, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 43 • By PETER WEHNER
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Senator John Kerry said this in February 2007: "The simple fact is that sending in over 20,000 additional troops isn't the answer--in fact, it's a tragic mistake. It won't end the violence; it won't provide security;  .  .  .  it won't turn back the clock and avoid the civil war that is already underway; it won't deter terrorists, who have a completely different agenda; it won't rein in the militias."

Kerry's fellow Massachusetts senator, Ted Kennedy, declared that any troop increase would be "an immense new mistake."

Representative Dennis Kucinich, in this instance speaking for the mainstream of his party, put it this way: "It has been proven time and time again that troop surges don't work."

In April 2007, Senate majority leader Harry Reid declared the Iraq war "lost" and insisted, "This surge is not accomplishing anything."

Also in April, Senator Christopher Dodd said, "We don't need a surge of troops in Iraq--we need a surge of diplomacy and politics. Every knowledgeable person who has examined the Iraq situation for the past several years--Baker and Hamilton, senior military officials, junior officers--has drawn the same conclusion--there is no military solution in Iraq. To insist upon a surge is wrong."

In September 2007, Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, in anticipation of congressional testimony by General Petraeus, said, "By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working. Even if the figures were right, the conclusion is wrong."

A month later Representative David Obey, asked if the surge strategy was working, offered the view that if violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents "are running out of people to kill."

In February of this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the success of the surge in Iraq. "Are you not worried, though, that all the gains that have been achieved over the past year might be lost?" Blitzer asked.

"There haven't been gains, Wolf," Pelosi replied. "The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure."

And as recently as last month, Governor Bill Richardson, when asked if he was ready to concede that John McCain had been right in proposing the surge because it seemed to be having a positive impact, answered, "Absolutely not."

Democrats, then, have compounded their initial bad judgment about the surge with reckless obstinacy. As ethno-sectarian violence in Iraq rapidly declined, as al Qaeda absorbed tremendous military blows, and as political accommodation and legislative achievements have emerged, Democrats, rather than welcoming the progress, grew agitated. They embraced with religious zeal the belief that the Iraq war was lost; they therefore viewed the success of the surge as a terribly inconvenient development, one they sought to deny to the point that they looked silly and out of touch. Worse, Democrats acted as if they had a vested interest in an American defeat.

Rarely has a political party been so uniformly wrong, in such an obvious way, on such an important matter. And when Americans cast their vote on November 4, they should carefully consider how Barack Obama and the entire Democratic party fought ferociously and relentlessly to undermine a policy that has worked extraordinarily well and may yet prove to be among the most successful military plans in modern times.

Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.