Tit for Tet

By Taranto, James | The American Spectator, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Tit for Tet


Taranto, James, The American Spectator


AS THE ENEMY IN IRAQ ROOTING for the Democrats to take over Congress? It's an inflammatory question, hut Thomas Friedman of the New York Times seemed to think the answer was yes. In a remarkable column that appeared three weeks bui'ore the election, Friedman predicted a spike in violence, à la the Tet Offensive in 1968:

Although the Vietcong and Hanoi were badly mauled during Tet, they delivered, through the media, such a psychological blow to U.S. hopes of "winning" in Vietnam that Tet is widely credited with eroding support for President Johnson and driving him to withdraw as a candidate for reelection....

While there may be no single hand coordinating the upsurge in violence in Iraq, enough people seem to he deliberately stoking the fires there before our election that the parallel with Tet is not inappropriate. The jihadists want to sow so much havoc that Bush supporters will he defeated in the midterms and the president will face a revolt from his own party, as well as from Democrats, if lie does not begin a pullout from Iraq.

Fried man expected the media to follow the Vietnam script (see "Bad News Bearers," TAS, February 2006), in which a war is supposed to become a quagmire, which provokes opposition and leads to American withdrawal.

True to the script, the Democrats won control of both the House and Senate, in part because of public dissatisfaction with Iraq. But the election was not entirely-or even mostly-a referendum on the war. Many other factors contributed to the Republican defeat: corruption, overspending, Democratic cleverness in recruiting candidates, the usual sixth-year dissatisfaction with the party in power. Among the Republicans who lost their seats were Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Reps. John Ilostettler of Indiana and Jim Leach of Iowa, all of whom opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. That leaves only two anti-Iraq Republicans in Congress.

Connecticut offered the clearest refutation of the idea that the voters were eager to bug out oflraq. In an August primary. Sen. Joseph Lieberman lost his party's nomination to McGovernite billionaire Ned Lamont. lieberman is the Democratic Party's most steadfast supporter of the war effort and one of its staunches! backers in either party. Some called him a de facto Republican. But he was unhindered by the GOP's other problems, so that even in a very liberal state he was able to trounce Lamont, 50 percent to 40 percent, with most of the balance going to the hapless Republican nominee.

After the election, a funny thing happened. On November 12-the Sunday after the Democrats' victory- the New York Times acknowledged that America couldn't simply walk away from I raq:

The Democrats will not be ;tbk' to savor their victory for long. Americans are waiting to hear if they have any good ideas for how to get out of Iraq without creating even wider chaos and terrorism.

Criticizing President Bush's gross mismanagement of the war was a winning electoral strategy. Rut criticism will nut extricate the United States from this mess, nor will it persuade voters that the Democrats are ready to take back the White House....

The Democrats will also need to look forward-and quickly. So far they have shared slogans, but no real policy. During the campaign, their most common call was for a "phased redeployment"-a euphemism for withdrawal-of American troops starting before the end of this year.

In ensuing days, the news pages of the Timiw echoed the theme that precipitous withdrawal would be foolish and dangerous. "Get Out Now? Not So Fast. Experts Say," read the headline ol'a November 15 "military analysis." The argument for quick withdrawal, wrote Michael Gordon of the Times, "is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies. …

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