August 22, 2007

Narrative shift

This is the short term version of Edwards' piece in Foreign Affairs last week lauding Ronald Reagan*: notice the quoticle from Obama, in effect criticizing Bush for not making the surge large enough.

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."

The key part of the narrative shift is the "of course" line. The shift in the Cold War End-Game Master Narrative, which is now well noted "of course we all knew the Soviet Union was going to internally collapse, but a Carter Second Term could have done it more expeditiously and with less rancor than Reagan did....but then again, Reagan was a Democrat first, you know." The shift in the Master Narrative on Iraq is going to be about how united we were, and that the larger idea was sound, but it was messed up by Bush's bungling. Here's the money shot:

For Democratic congressional leaders, the dog days of August are looking anything but quiet. Having failed twice to crack GOP opposition and force a major change in war policy, Democrats risk further alienating their restive supporters if the September showdown again ends in stalemate. House Democratic leaders held an early morning conference call yesterday with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), honing a new message: Of course an influx of U.S. troops has improved security in Iraq, but without any progress on political reconciliation, the sweat and blood of American forces has been for naught."

Now, if the White House started making lots of "Blood and Sweat" references, you can bet your hedge fund dollars that Olberman and Co. would be going apoplectic with the Nazi overtones. But I digress.

What's important about this is the beginning of the Master Narrative Shift on Iraq. Over the course of the next couple of years, the left is going to have to (somehow) extract it's supposed belief in promoting human rights, democracy, and the rest of the Wilsonian agenda from it's absolute hatred of George Bush. My prediction is that in time, the Master Narrative will be recast as that of George Bush had the right intentions, but he was thwarted by Cheney and the thuggish Republican appointees in his administration. Something along the lines of this article that was yesterday in the Post:

"Two and a half years after Bush pledged in his second inaugural address to spread democracy around the world, the grand project has bogged down in a bureaucratic and geopolitical morass, in the view of many activists, officials and even White House aides. Many in his administration never bought into the idea, and some undermined it, including his own vice president. The Iraq war has distracted Bush and, in some quarters, discredited his aspirations. And while he focuses his ire on bureaucracy, Bush at times has compromised the idealism of that speech in the muddy reality of guarding other U.S. interests.

*Here's my favorite line of Silky's from his Foreign Affairs essay: "Millions of people imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain silently cheered the day President Reagan declared, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Even if these ordinary men and women did not always agree with our policies, they looked to our president and saw a person -- and a nation -- they could trust. Too bad these ordinary men and women the former Senator, Hedge Fund partner, and Ninth-Ward forecloser was refering to didn't work at the New York Times, CNN, etc., who excoriated President Reagan for his "recklessness" in that speech. But I digress....

Posted by Steve-O at August 22, 2007 06:52 AM | TrackBack

I think you are right Steve, but probably for a different reason. The Dems have consistently supported this war (ignoring all of the recent rhetoric to the contrary). Whenever they reached a point where they could have substantively changed policies, they gave the Bush & Co. everything they wanted. There are only so many times they can pull the football away before one has to assume that the Dems want to remain every bit as much as the Repubs. I predict a reduction in troops but massive permanent bases that will allow the US to keep the jackboot on the the throat of the Middle East, preserving American Empire interests, at least until the oil runs dry. The strategic value of the region after the resources are tapped is negligible and they will withdraw (50 years or so).

Posted by: LB Buddy at August 22, 2007 10:37 AM

Nah, the Democrats need to blame all on Bush, to cover their own failures.

Posted by: marvin at August 22, 2007 03:14 PM