As a reminder that there exist intellectually honest, rational Republicans in the world, I link unto Daniel Drezner: Is it just me or did the earth move for everyone?
From a policy perspective, it’s good to see that the president is starting to think about other alternatives to simply staying the course. From a political perspective, however, my hunch is that this shift in rhetoric will be a disaster.
Why? For the past five years, Democrats have been vulnerable on national security issues. Bush and the Republicans projected a clear image of taking the war to the enemy, and never yielding in their drive to defeat radical Islamists. The Democrats, in contrast, projected either an antiwar position or a “yes, but” position. The former looked out of step with the American people, the latter looked like Republican lite. No matter how you sliced it, the Republicans held the upper hand.
The recent rhetorical shift on Iraq, however, has flipped this phenomenon on its head. If Bush acknowledges that “stay the course” is no longer a statisfying status quo, he’s acknowledging that the Republican position for the past few years has not worked out too well. If that’s the case, then Republicans are forced to offer alternatives with benchmarks or timetables or whatever. The administration has had these plans before, but politically, it looks like the GOP is gravitating towards the Democratic position rather than vice versa.
Yup, that’s pretty much how it looks for me. Or, for a less Republican-tinged version of reality, there’s this simile from Rosa Brooks’ The Google catches Bush:
When it comes to Iraq, being a citizen in George W. Bush’s America is like being a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver. Drunk on power, the administration has spent years driving resolutely into brick walls. To compensate, they’ve now adopted a policy of swerving all over the place.
It’s time to take away the car keys.