How often do the editorial boards of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal not only agree, but coincide on foreign policy? Rarely enough so that today’s twin broadsides on the Democratic presidential contenders is worthy of special notice. Both editorial boards scold the Democrats for not only getting Iraq wrong, but also for seriously misrepresenting the progress achieved through the surge.
The Post’s criticisms get tart indeed:
A reasonable response to these facts might involve an acknowledgment of the remarkable military progress, coupled with a reminder that the final goal of the surge set out by President Bush — political accords among Iraq’s competing factions — has not been reached. (That happens to be our reaction to a campaign that we greeted with skepticism a year ago.) It also would involve a willingness by the candidates to reconsider their long-standing plans to carry out a rapid withdrawal of remaining U.S. forces in Iraq as soon as they become president — a step that would almost certainly reverse the progress that has been made.
What Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson instead offered was an exclusive focus on the Iraqi political failures — coupled with a blizzard of assertions about the war that were at best unfounded and in several cases simply false. Mr. Obama led the way, claiming that Sunni tribes in Anbar province joined forces with U.S. troops against al-Qaeda in response to the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections — a far-fetched assertion for which he offered no evidence.
Mr. Obama acknowledged some reduction of violence, but said he had predicted that adding troops would have that effect. In fact, on Jan. 8, 2007, he said that in the absence of political progress, “I don’t think 15,000 or 20,000 more troops is going to make a difference in Iraq and in Baghdad.” He also said he saw “no evidence that additional American troops would change the behavior of Iraqi sectarian politicians and make them start reining in violence by members of their religious groups.” Ms. Clinton, for her part, refused to retract a statement she made in September, when she said it would require “a suspension of disbelief” to believe that the surge was working.
In fact, the Journal notes that only after it became clear that the US would not follow the Democratic policies of defeat and retreat did the Anbar sheikhs sign onto the Awakening in full:
But the Sunni Awakening, as it is called, with its fall in bloodshed, occurred only after the Anbar Sunnis were convinced that the U.S. troops would not abandon them to al Qaeda in Iraq. Sunni sheiks have said explicitly it was the new U.S. policy of sustaining the offensive against AQI that made it possible for them to resist the jihadists. The U.S. military has supported the spread of these “awakening councils” in other areas of Iraq. It is navel-gazing in the extreme for Mr. Obama to suggest U.S. Congressional elections caused this turn.
Both Obama and Clinton have track records on the surge and Iraq that they have to explain away with half-truths and foggy memories. As the Post noted, both of them tried to push an unconstitutional hijacking of military command from the executive to the legislature. Not only should they answer for their wrong-headedness on policy, but they should also be forced to explain whether they would as President allow Congress to intrude on the role of Commander in Chief so baldly and illegally.
The Journal wonders whether these candidates have become so self-contained that they think they can say anything on national TV and get away with it. The Journal forgets that the candidates right now are speaking to only the true believers in the primary process. They’re playing sing-along on defeatism, and no one wants to hear that the Left had it wrong all along. Hillary’s refusal to retract her “willing suspension of disbelief” comment underscores the willing suspension of reality that the anti-war activists on the Left have promoted.
This, of course, is hardly new. What’s new is that the Post, an establishment center-left paper, has come to the same conclusion as the Journal.