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Notes on Iraq

In my column today on the administration's early efforts to secure Baghdad, I note some of the signs of progress that have emerged from Iraq in recently. Here are three more from today: 1) The Washington Post reports that Sunni tribesmen joined with Iraq security forces to defeat dozens of insurgents in Western Iraq, 2) the Associated Press reports a sharp drop in the body count in Baghdad, and 3) The Los Angeles Times says that Iraqis who fled amid the earlier violence in their country are beginning to return home.

Also of note, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has chosen Iraq war critic Eliot A. Cohen to replace Philip Zelikow as a counselor.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate yesterday continued to struggle to find ways to rebuke the administration's policy in Iraq. Majority Leader Reid said that while Democrats weren't able to agree on a political tactic, there was unanimity among his caucus that the "war in Iraq is going wrong."

And Russ Feingold said this:

"It's still George Bush's war, but we run the risk of gaining some ownership of it if we don't make it absolutely clear that we are the party that wants to get out of there."

The public is clearly sour on the war, and will probably remain so. But that sourness stems from frustration over a lack of progress in Iraq, not necessarily a desire to declare the whole thing a failure and leave as quickly as possible. In fact, if the Bush administration had made all of the same moves and adjustments six months before the election instead of six months after, Republicans would have faired much better in the election and probably would have kept control of the Senate.

So there is some political risk to Democrats continuing to try and rebuke and/or undermine the administration's policy even as it's showing signs of progress, however small. It makes it seem like they want this last chance in Iraq to fail for political reasons. It seems to me far smarter to lay low and shift the focus to a different issue for a while. If the surge fails in six months, Democrats can stand up and say "we told you so." If it somehow succeeds, they won't look like they've been pining for America's failure.