Jonathon Rauch has a very interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post about how the end of the Iraq war may follow the same trajectory as the end of Vietnam — only faster: All over but the pullback.
“I think we’ve reached a point where news from Iraq itself is not likely to reverse the trajectory,” says Scott Rasmussen, the president of Rasmussen Reports. By contrast, “troops coming home is a new dynamic. And that is what will change poll numbers.” Indeed, a combination of returning U.S. forces and lower oil prices come November, Rasmussen says, would be “Democrats’ nightmare.”
And so, any day now, the president’s political advisers will likely go to him and say something like this:
“Mr. President, if U.S. forces are not clearly on their way out of Iraq by about June 30, we will face a bloodbath in the midterm elections, and the Republicans will lose the House or the Senate or both. On the other hand, if U.S. forces are coming home, you will have cut the legs out from under the Democrats. They will have no choice but to support your drawdown or call for an even faster one. Either way, they would be in no position to blame you for any subsequent setbacks over there. Right now, you have nothing to say on Iraq that makes sense to the public. Once the troops start coming home, it will be the other side that has nothing to say.”
Which will Bush choose?
From the beginning, Bush has fought the “War on Terror” with an eye to domestic politics. Foreign policy for Bush has simply been a tool of Karl Rove’s Machiavellian schemes for getting and holding domestic power. And Bush (and Rove) have succeeded spectacularly — as long as you’re only looking at the domestic political picture. That someone like Bush could succeed in taking the White House not once but twice — and the second time in the wake of the disaster of his indifferent attitude toward the threat represented by al Qaeda during his first nine months in office — is close to miraculous.
But while Bush’s manipulation of domestic politics has been a stunning success, his actual policies have been stunning failures. And while I’m grateful that the erosion of public support for the war is finally catching up with him, I see no reason to think that a politics-driving precipitous withdrawal will work out any better, in terms of its consequences, than did the politics-driven precipitous invasion.