No one has seemed more surprised by the Democrats’ success in pushing an exit strategy for Iraq than the Democrats.
Their aggressiveness and unity on a major foreign-policy challenge to the president is a striking change for a party that has, on many occasions over many years, seemed to be on the defensive on national security issues.
In fact, for much of the post-Vietnam era, the Republican advantage on those issues has been a defining feature of American politics. Many Democrats felt they needed to prove, again and again, that their party was tough enough to defend the nation’s interests — to fight the notion, often stoked by Republicans, that Democrats were the party of George McGovern and the nuclear freeze.
My immediate instinct when reading media analyses of the national security policies of the two main parties is to cringe. But these lead paragraphs sound about right, and seem to imply that Democrats are beginning to feel more sure footed about the revolutionary idea that "defending the nation's interests" does not necessarily require being "tough enough".
That's not to say that the change is permanent. It's easy to be unified against something as bloody (and as unpopular) as the Iraq war. It's a fact that seems to embolden analysts into suggesting that, to maintain their advantage, Democrats should invent problems that require toughness so that they can solidify their foreign policy bona fides:
The broader question is whether the war forges an enduring change in the Democratic Party, its stance and its credibility on national security. Many strategists are already warning that over the long haul, it is not enough to be antiwar: the Democrats need a strong, affirmative vision of foreign policy.
“If getting out of Iraq defines entirely who the Democrats are on national security, then over the long run, it will be a disaster,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic group. Rather, Iraq needs to be part “of a larger strategy aimed at showing how to protect America’s national security interests,” he said.
Fortunately the author of this article helps offset Bennett's bullshit with some more sophisticated insights from Gary Hart. For those insights, click the link. But really: the suggestion that it will be disastrous for Democrats if they succeed in extricating us from the howling chaos of Iraq is absurd. The idea that, to forestall that disaster, the Democrats should...I dunno...plan to invade Iran is dangerous. And the fact that a think tank like Third Way has any traction with the Democratic party on foreign policy is astonishing.