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The Tribune editorial page waxed the Democrats the other day for failing to deal with the new reality in Iraq. “By every measure, life is improving in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. The signs of progress are undeniable,” it said, citing its own Liz Sly, who recently reported that “for the first time in years, Baghdad’s residents are starting to remember what an ordinary life is like.”
“It seems like Democratic leaders in Congress are trapped in a time warp,” the Tribune editorial commented. “They said a year ago the surge was doomed to fail. They were wrong, yet even in light of recent military success, they still demand the president set a timetable for troop withdrawal. They’re still trying to enshrine that into law.”
Fair enough. Bad news from the battlefield serves the Democrats better than good news, and of all the things a political party could possibly be in denial about, military victory must be the worst. But even though the position of the Democratic Party on the war in Iraq is infinitely more significant than the position of the Tribune, I now find myself wondering what the Tribune’s is.
Commenting on the surge in June, the same editorial page saw signs of success and signs of failure and concluded that “what can be said without hesitation is that U.S. forces are stretched thin and the Iraqi army has yet to prove it is an effective fighting force.” In September, the Tribune observed that General David Petraeus had sounded a lot more upbeat about military progress than ambassador Ryan Crocker sounded about political progress when they both spoke to Congress. “Neither man predicated his diagnosis of progress on the Iraqi government’s achievement of the benchmarks Washington has set,” that editorial went on. “That’s because the Iraqis aren’t meeting them.”
Even now the Tribune concedes that despite progress in the provinces “we have not seen political reconciliation from the leaders of Iraq’s central government. That has been immensely frustrating.”
The Tribune slowly, reluctantly turned against the war in Iraq. Is it now back in harness — despite political benchmarks that are not being met, a surge that cannot be sustained because of a lack of troops, and various signs, as it pointed out in an October 7 editorial, “that the war in Iraq is being redefined as a conflict between the U.S. and Iran.” The Tribune said in the most recent of its surge editorials that the Democrats need a new “agenda” on Iraq, but beyond backing off and buttoning its lip, the Tribune had no advice for the Democratic Party on what that agenda should be. What would it advise its own party, the Republicans, about the way forward in Iraq, other than to think of the surge as comfort food to enjoy while they can?