As President Bush works to find strategies for victory in Iraq and dealing with the Iranian threat, the Democratic Party seems determined to send every possible signal to our enemies that they have nothing to worry about when it comes to the projection of American power in wartime. Prominent Democrats are increasingly behaving as if their primary mission is not to defeat Islamists determined to destroy Western civilization, but to do everything they can to ensure that they can turn Mr. Bush into a lame duck for the next two years regardless of the consequences for our national security.
This irresponsible behavior manifests itself on an almost daily basis as anti-war lawmakers are divided into two camps on Iraq: a small but increasingly vocal group that demands withdrawal whatever the consequences, and a larger, more intellectually dishonest group that is afraid to act on its convictions and cut off funds for operations in Iraq. Instead, members of the latter group maneuver to put themselves in a politically advantageous position where they can say “I told you so; it’s Bush’s fault” after Iraq collapses. Right now, both groups are focused on passage of a resolution sometime this week denouncing the president’s efforts to send more troops to protect Iraqis from marauding Sunni terrorist insurgents and Shi’ite militias in Baghdad. But aside from undermining Mr. Bush’s ability as commander in chief in Iraq, arguably no issue unites the president’s foes in Congress more than Iran — specifically the need to ensure this rogue regime that it has nothing to fear when it menaces its neighbors.
Earlier this month, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden threatened Mr. Bush with a “constitutional crisis” if the United States crossed the Iranian border in search of terrorists who send improvised explosive devices (IEDs) into Iraq to kill and maim American soldiers. In his “prebuttal” to the State of the Union address, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Mr. Bush of “saber-rattling” on Iran. After stating that the president needed congressional authorization to take military action against the rogue regime, Mr. Reid made clear that he didn’t think this was a terribly good idea. The real problem, Mr. Reid indicated, is that the Bush administration “has no strategy for connecting with” Iranians under 30, who he called a “generation of potential reformers.”
While we wait for the mullahs to act on Mr. Reid’s enlightened vision and cede power to Iran’s reformist generation, however, there are more pressing problems back in the real world — like Tehran’s role in smuggling IEDs into Iraq. In response to the IED problem, Mr. Bush has granted authority to U.S. troops to to use all necessary measures to protect themselves and Iraqi civilians from harm; to make this a reality, Mr. Bush is reported to have given U.S. troops the authority to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq. Until now, U.S. forces have tried to avoid conflict with Tehran by using a policy called “catch and release” (not entirely unlike the failed policy for combatting illegal immigrants in the United States) in dealing with Iranian operatives in Iraq, who would be detained for a brief period by U.S. forces, then sent on their way. Unsurprisingly, the program was a failure that emboldened Tehran to continue its subversion.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who less than three years ago had joined with Zbigniew Brzezinski in calling for U.S. engagement with Iran) delivered a compelling, impassioned defense of the new U.S. policy. Mr. Gates emphasized that under the program, U.S. troops would not cross the border into Iran. But American soldiers, he said, are not “simply going to stand by and let people bring sophisticated IEDs into the country that can disable an Abrams tank and give them a free pass.” Noting that the IEDs are causing 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq, Mr. Gates stated bluntly that “if you are in Iraq and are trying to kill our troops, then you should consider yourself a target.”
Iranian officials reacted by denouncing the new American policy as “terrorist” in nature. As for Mr. Reid, when asked about Mr. Bush’s lethal force order, he graciously agreed that U.S. troops may defend themselves. The majority leader then appeared to suggest that the president needed to do more to engage the Holocaust-denying regime in Tehran, stating that Mr. Bush should be working with other countries in the region to prevent hostilities with Iran from escalating, instead of “sending battle carrier groups” to sit near the Iranian coast. Unfortunately, Harry Reid, with all his childlike geopolitical innocence, symbolizes all too well the Democratic Party leadership in the current Congress.