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Monday, August 21, 2006

Iraq: Does the right think it's time to quit?

A year ago today, I wrote a post called "Framing Iraq: a Lesson from the Vietnam Experience." If you didn't read it, please do so because I think it is one of my better posts; indeed, I feature it among the "Greatest Hits" in the sidebar.

If you read the post a year ago, you probably recall my argument that the Bush administration's frame about Iraq is false. The policy choice is NOT simply between "stay the course" and "cut-and-run." War supporters employ this frame to silence its critics -- and to link them to the perceived far left of American politics. Anyone witnessing the right's reaction to Ned Lamont's primary victory witnessed the battle plan.

However, there is an obvious third possibility that the administration (and its left-leaning) critics mostly ignore: escalation.

I argued last August 21 that war opponents might be able to convince a sizable portion of the American electorate to abandon the Bush administration if it becomes clear that the U.S. is not really serious about winning in Iraq. They would support escalation, in order to win the war decisively, but that is apparently not on the table. If "stay-the-course" means civil war without much prospect for US victory, then so-called "Jacksonian" Americans might prefer withdrawal altogether to the status quo.

Why am I bringing this up again? Well, self-described right-wing blogger Rick Moran posted this yesterday: "IRAQ: QUIT OR COMMIT." I certainly don't agree with much of his diagnosis or analysis, but I do think Moran's post reflects exactly the type of thinking I was talking about a year ago.

Note: Karl Rove may already be all over this problem. It could explain why RNC Chair Ken Mehlman explicitly now rejects the "stay-the-course" phrase in favor of "win by adapting." Then again, the administration sometimes seems to trot out new rhetoric merely on a trial basis; thus, this new label might not last. Spokesperson Tony Snow used "stay the course" just last week. Bush said "stay the course" most recently on July 11.

Hat tip to Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest for pointing me to Moran's piece.

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