In the brilliant BBC comedy series 'Yes Minister,' we learn that the best way to dissuade a politician from a certain course of action is to describe it as 'courageous.' Think of that when you read the comments of Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) upon his return from Iraq:
"I believe that the decision to invade Iraq and the post-invasion management of that country were among the largest foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. I voted against them, and I still think they were the right votes," Baird said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
"But we're on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work..."
"People may be upset. I wish I didn't have to say this," Baird said. He added that the United States needs to continue with its military troops surge "at least into early next year, then engage in a gradual redeployment. â€¦ I know it's going to cost hundreds of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars..."
Activists rallied Thursday at the state Capitol, saying they want Baird, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Olympia, to vote for withdrawing U.S. troops. But Baird said he believes that to the extent Iraqis think the United States would withdraw before bringing security to a functioning Iraqi government, "that might contribute to the infighting and instability of the government."
With the arrival in a few weeks of the September report on military and political progress in Iraq, there's a great deal of pressure on Congressional Democrats to toe the party line--that the surge is not making a difference, and that because there is a lack of political progress in Iraq the U.S. ought to withdraw. Baird deserves credit for tackling that argument head on. He represents exactly what Jim Clyburn had in mind when he said that success in Iraq causes problems for House Democrats. If Baird speaks for even a few dozen Democrats, it will make it much harder for the Congressional leadership to force a precipitous withdrawal.