Former Assistant Secretary of State James P. Rubin has an interesting suggestion for Democratic strategists in his NYT op-ed “A War Democrats Can Win.” Rubin says:
Back in Washington last week, partisan warfare had erupted over a Democratic proposal to establish a timeline for withdrawing American forces from Iraq. Even though the top commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., was working on just such a plan, Republicans battered the Democrats as quitters, unwilling to hang tough in the fight against terrorism.
Next time, the Democrats should try a different strategy. Instead of calling for troop cuts in Iraq, they should call for transferring forces and resources from Iraq to Afghanistan.
It’s not a new idea, and it has been suggested from time to time by different Dem leaders in recent years. But making it a major, unifying theme just might provide a credible exit strategy for Democrats. Rubin argues further:
By forcing a debate on transferring American forces back to Afghanistan, the Democrats can avoid the trap of allowing Republicans to claim they are weak. They can argue that their proposal is not a withdrawal from the front, but rather a deployment to an equally important front where American leadership can make the difference in securing a long-term victory….If nothing else, such a debate would focus attention on the Bush administration’s failure to finish the job in Afghanistan.
Americans know that Iraq has become a drain on our resources and reputation, but they are wary of giving up. On the other hand, since the Sept. 11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan, public support for finally finishing off the Taliban and their allies in Al Qaeda can be sustained for a long time to come.
Rubin doesn’t explore the political fallout of different scenarios we might leave behind in Iraq. But the merits of Democratic candidates talking about transferring troops instead of withdrawing them deserve consideration.