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Democrats Risk Post-Vietnam Syndrome

3:34 PM, Apr 5, 2007 • By INFLUENCE PEDDLER
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I've flogged the Democrats quite a bit for suggesting that they will ultimately pay a price at the polls for their extreme opposition to the continued use of force in Iraq. Their willingness to escalate that opposition, despite mounting evidence that the surge is yielding results, is likely to seriously undercut their credibility on defense and national security issues for some time. Daniel Henninger notes today that if the surge succeeds, the Democrats may wish they had been more temperate:

Carried aloft on the gassy fumes of politics, the congressional Democrats may be overshooting on Iraq. Six months from now, they may wish they had been more temperate. Helped finally by the right U.S. military strategy, the Iraq nightmare might be ebbing. Then what?

No such thought intrudes today on Democratic politics. Buoyed by President Bush's 30-something approval and with disaffection over the war at 60%, Senate Majority Leader Reid can promise to sign on to Russ Feingold's pull-the-plug bill; and House Speaker Pelosi, as if making foie gras, can cram an Iraq-withdrawal bill down the gullets of her chamber's membership. The polls are with Harry and Nancy. What can go wrong?

What could go wrong is that the U.S. military's "surge" could go right. The surge, led by Gen. David Petraeus and formally known as the Baghdad Security Plan, is a real strategy being executed by real people on the ground in Iraq. For the past several months, since President Bush announced the plan, the Democratic leadership has acted as if this effort were so irrelevant as to not exist. Why bother? The House leadership has its own "surge" up and running in Washington against the enemy in the White House.

We're pleased to note Mr. Henninger's recommendation of the THE WEEKLY STANDARD's biweekly Iraq report. We think it's excellent work, and recommend it to all interested in the Iraq effort.

But while Mr. Henninger predicts trouble for Democrats if the surge 'works,' other well-known commentators see trouble for Democrats regardless of the outcome. Lawrence Haas for example, is a former communications director for Vice President Al Gore. In a recent piece that did not attract the attention it merited, he noted:

The parallels are striking. In 1975, a Democratic Congress cut off funds for the U.S. effort in Vietnam. The public, disillusioned over Vietnam and Watergate, elected Jimmy Carter, who promised honesty and applauded the end of "our irrational fear of Communism."

As America turned inward in the late 1970s, enemies sensed our vulnerability and dangers mounted. The fear of communism was not so irrational after all. In Ethiopia, Angola, Rhodesia and elsewhere, the Soviet Union or Cuba worked to stoke Third World revolution. The Soviets more openly laid bare their expansionist agenda in late 1979 by invading Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979 toppled a staunch U.S. ally. The student seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, leading to a 444-day hostage crisis, painted a picture of American impotence.

But, as the decade came to a close, Americans had had enough of defeat and humiliation. Just five years after Americans had bid goodbye to Vietnam and turned inward, they elected Ronald Reagan, who promised to rebuild the nation's defenses and stop the drift of U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, in that campaign season, Reagan called Vietnam a "noble cause."

You should read the whole thing. Charles Krauthammer also captured similar sentiments last year.

The traditional Republican edge on national security and terror issues has been significantly weakened during the Iraq war. But the great likelihood is that it will improve. Either the Iraq surge will work, or Democrats will force an end to the Iraq mission, or President Bush will be supplanted by the 2008 GOP nominee as the face of the party on national security. Each of these will (or would) help restore the GOP edge on national security. And given the insistence of Democrats on addressing terror with a mixture of defeatism, multilateralism, and blame-America-firstism--there's no reason to think that their presidential nominee will be able to re-establish the party's credibility in fighting the global war on terror. Heck, we learned yesterday that they can't even admit such a war exists.

By continuing to put their current political interests ahead of the national interest, Democrats are undermining their future prospects--perhaps for years to come.