Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords: but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged must end in disappointment.During the muted chattering of the midterm elections, which the Narcissi of the netroots mistook for a great national huurly-burly, I found myself increasingly convinced of the old Michael Savagite conviction that liberalism, at least the variety practiced by American Democrats, really is a mental disorder. Even as they chortled mordantly over the various social conservative or anti-immigration constituencies forever promised the sun, moon, and stars by the mandarins of the Establishment GOP only to be kicked coldly to the curb when the apparatus of policy came creaking to attention, they themselves waited totally unaware for an even more predictable and far more dire switcheroo, which was the hasty beatback from "Withdraw!" to "Responsibility!" on the issue of the war. The lowlights:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 — In the cacophony of competing plans about how to deal with Iraq, one reality now appears clear: despite the Democrats’ victory this month in an election viewed as a referendum on the war, the idea of a rapid American troop withdrawal is fast receding as a viable option.But of course:
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are signaling that too rapid an American pullout would open the way to all-out civil war. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has shied away from recommending explicit timelines in favor of a vaguely timed pullback. The report that the panel will deliver to President Bush next week would, at a minimum, leave a force of 70,000 or more troops in the country for a long time to come, to train the Iraqis and to insure against collapse of a desperately weak central government.
Even the Democrats, with an eye toward 2008, have dropped talk of a race for the exits, in favor of a brisk stroll. But that may be the only solace for Mr. Bush as he returns from a messy encounter with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Mr. Bush declared that Iraqis need not fear that he is looking for “some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq.”And:
But more recently, the president has, if anything, seemed to harden his position again. In Hanoi, Vietnam, nearly two weeks ago, he suggested that he would regard the recommendations from the Baker-Hamilton group as no more than a voice among many. In Riga, Latvia, two days ago he all but pounded the lectern as he declared, “There’s one thing I’m not going to do: I’m not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.”As for the book club over at the retirement village:
The [Iraq Study] group never seriously considered the position that Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is a leading voice on national security issues, took more than a year ago, that withdrawal should begin immediately. The group did debate timetables, especially after a proposal, backed by influential Democratic members of the commission, that a robust diplomatic strategy and better training of Iraqis be matched up with a clear schedule for withdrawal. But explicit mention of such a schedule was dropped.What about our old friends?
In statements on Thursday, Democrats from former President Bill Clinton to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to agree that hard timelines could invite trouble. Nonetheless, some areas of potential conflict with Mr. Bush seem clear.Elsewhere, our Dems are cautiously awaiting the official announcement of the plan.
Others in Washington cautiously welcomed the emerging report. "I think that the Baker report is . . . going to change the debate in this country," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) told CNN.There you have it. The debate will change by way of bipartisan support for a welcome, but non-specific, un-pointed, and unclear "change of course."
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), speaking on MSNBC's "Hardball," said that "I suspect there may be a growing bipartisan support in this country for what Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, the other members of that commission have put together."
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a careful assessment: "It's a welcome change in course, although it's not as specific, or it's not as pointed, or it's not as clear as I would like."
And did we mention:
The panel included a significant caveat for the 2008 goal for troop withdrawals by recommending that commanders should plan to pull out combat units by then unless "unexpected developments" make them decide that such a move would be unwise, the sources said.So to the modifiers of the prior paragraph, we might add one further caveat, as the saying goes: that for all intents and purposes, the "change of course" is a fake.
2008, for those keeping track, is the target date for the beginning of the drawdown process, which, even presuming that those old "unexpected developments" stay safely in the bag, leaves all of 2007 for the United States to continue screwing the pooch to within a centimeter of its poor canine life in Iraq. The Democrats, meanwhile, who have been lamenting the "partisan" rancor of Washington and the needlessly "divisive" politics of the Bush administration, now see fit to establish a happier July Monarchy, titled a "bipartisan foreign policy consensus," personified by the Sewing Circle for Agèd Eminences, symbolized by a burning Baghdad, and full of noble paternalisms about how "we" must not abandon "the Iraqis" to the terrible fate we've already guaranteed them. Of the Democrats now nearly ascendent, I can only say what Balzac said, that "when reason is exhausted, only sentiment remains," or even more pretinently, regarding the truly inexhaustible capacity of the Liberals of Netrootsia to pardon any venality so long as it's not committed by a Republican:
The ill-natured get credit for the evil they refrain from.