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The Left and Iraq: So Many Circles to Square

1:08 PM, Nov 21, 2007 • By DEAN BARNETT
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Jeffrey Feldman over at the Daily Kos, one of the site's most prominent and astute "diarists," published an interesting essay over the weekend. In it, he suggested that the Kossacks revisit the way they "frame" the Iraq issue. Feldman looked to Basra and came up with four magic words that would surely have George Lakoff smiling down from heaven if he wasn't in fact still alive. The four words are, "Troops leave, violence drops."

Obviously, Feldman's four words are meant to suggest a causality that should force any sane American to demand that all of our troops return from Iraq immediately. If the troops leaving actually does cause the violence to drop, then something dramatic like removing all of our troops simultaneously may cause not only peace to break out throughout Iraq, but Sunnis and Shiites to hold interfaith Seders next Passover with any Jews they can find lurking about.

Putting aside the sheer idiocy of his "reframing" effort, Feldman still deserves plaudits for recognizing what most on the left refuse to acknowledge. The situation in Iraq has improved, and that will be a political reality that progressives will have to deal with rationally in '08 if they want to win the White House. Feldman won't get any help in this regard from the master of the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas. In his latest Newsweek column, Moulitsas was still singing from the last campaign cycle's hymnbook, calling Iraq "an unwinnable quagmire." Actually, that may have been 1968's hymnbook.

There's something even more problematic with Feldman's formulation. His "reframing" suggests that our troops are the problem. Not content with the usual progressive's role of dismissing the progress and sacrifices our military has made in Iraq, Feldman actually seems to be suggesting that they are and have been the problem all along. I don't think any of the military people I know will have a fondness for this theory. I know Feldman would say he's Blaming Bush (trademark pending), but those who have bled in Iraq won't like their accomplishments being dismissed. Nor should they.

Of course, Jeffrey Feldman isn't exactly one of the left's leading strategists. But Markos Moulitsas is. Their differing approaches to dealing with Iraq, both equally obtuse and offensive in their own unique ways, provide a handy look at the kind of trouble the Democratic nominee is going to have talking about Iraq cogently or even coherently.