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Next Dem Battlefront: Iraq


Now that the Democrats have won the battle over the nuclear option (or, at least, come away with a tie), they need to turn their attention to what it's going to take to become more than a minority party that wins a battle every now and then. They have been surprisingly successful at battling Bush’s domestic agenda, but if they’re going to broaden their appeal they’re going to have to first broaden their battlefronts to include Iraq.

After Kerry lost in November, the conventional wisdom was that he hadn't been "me-too" enough about Iraq. Actually, the truth is the exact opposite.

This war is a quagmire, and if the Democrats don’t know it, the American people do -- 57% don't believe the Iraq war was worth it.

Tuesday the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British think tank, released its "2004/2005 Strategic Survey." The report, a well-respected annual assessment of the security situation worldwide, cites a number of positive developments in the Middle East. But it's important to remember that they're hardly the product of Bush's policies. After all, Bush wasn’t responsible for the death of Yasser Arafat, nor did he order the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the anti-Syrian former Prime Minister of Lebanon, which touched off the pro-democracy demonstrations there.

What is most stunning about the report is the bleak picture it paints of the situation in Iraq. Some lowlights:

“From al Qaeda’s point of view, Bush’s Iraq policies have arguably produced a confluence of propitious circumstances.”

“...[The U.S. is] hated by much of the Islamic world and regarded warily even by its allies.”

“The upsurge in violence in April and May indicates that neither the U.S. military nor the nascent Iraq security forces have managed to increase their capacity to control the country.” [PDF]

“Such illegal practices [detainee abuses] made the achievement of any broad international coalition in Iraq even more difficult than it already was, and strengthened the cause of the insurgents.”

No mention of Newsweek anywhere, by the way.

The report was published on Tuesday – another day of murder and mayhem in Iraq, with "more than 100 Iraqis...killed or injured in a wave of bombings since Monday morning." 58 Americans and over 500 Iraqis have been killed since April 28, when the new Iraqi government was installed.

Yes, it’s great that the Democrats staved off the nuclear option. But the reason the nuclear option was even a possibility in the first place is because they have ceded the foreign policy battlefront to a majority party that doesn’t represent the majority of this country on the crucial foreign policy issue of Iraq. Democrats need to realize that they will remain a minority party so long as they only dare to take on Bush and the Republicans on domestic issues.