The Pro-War Right v. 2006 Elections
There is much discussion today of The Los Angeles Times article detailing the multiple signs that the Bush Administration is laying the groundwork for a significant troop reduction from Iraq. This article has again triggered speculation that the Administration is committing itself to a substantial withdraw from Iraq, regardless of the conditions there, in time to save GOP candidates in the November, 2006 elections from being saddled with an increasingly unpopular war.
But as I documented last week, the Administration will not be able to prematurely withdraw from Iraq without provoking a huge backlash from the formidable segment of the pro-war Right which cares more about their ideological goals and beliefs than they do about the short-term political considerations of either the Republican Party or George Bush.
With the Harriet Miers triumph, the Right convincingly demonstrated that it will no longer blindly fall into line behind George Bush’s decrees if they perceive that their ideological principles are being abandoned. And, as Bush becomes more unpopular and gets even closer to full-on "lame duck" status, the Right will not hesitate to wage war on him again – particularly if they think that he is selling out the chance for glorious U.S. victory in Iraq merely in order to preserve some GOP Congressional seats in a garden-variety mid-term election.
One of the leaders of the anti-withdraw charge is sure to be Bill Kristol, who, as I noted last week, clearly expects U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for a long, long time to come. Here is Kristol, along with Robert Kagan, in their Weekly Standard article last week revealingly entitled "Abandoning Iraq":
Victory is in fact possible, though it will require a longer war than anyone would like, but not so long a war as to be intolerable. What would be intolerable would be to lose to the terrorists in Iraq.
I think it's safe to say that Bill Kristol isn't on board with this oh-so-clever November, 2006 withdraw idea.
A preview of the war from the Right which is sure to waged if premature withdraw from Iraq is attempted, is found in this well-reasoned and anticipatorily angry objection from the intellectually honest, pro-war conservative blogger John Cole:
While drawing down 40k of 160k troops over the next year is certainly not cutting and running, I think it is pretty clear this decision is being based on domestic political considerations rather than facts on the ground.
Which, of course, makes this administration no better than the cynical Democrats who have been using this issue for their own political reasons. Worse, some might argue, since this administration led us into this war, and now seems unwilling to win it.
This is exactly the kind of thing we’re going to hear more of – with a lot more intensity and aggression – if the pro-war Right perceives that Bush is attempting premature troop reductions based on craven political calculations centering on the November, 2006 elections.
Bush, and Rove, may very well want to effectuate this withdraw, or at least make it look like we’re withdrawing, to avoid having the Iraq occupation be a fatal albatross around the necks of the GOP 2006 candidates. But as they found out with the Harriet Miers nomination, this isn’t 2002 any more, and they can’t have whatever they want.
Particularly since it will almost certainly risk infuriating -- again -- the only friends they have left, the Administration may not be able to stage this politically-motivated troop reduction even if, as increasingly appears to be the case, they are eager to do so.