Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Oh, THAT War on Terror(ism)

This morning's Wash Post contained two features of interest. The first was the op-ed column by Harold Meyerson that suggested a counterintuitive correlation between the publics' view of the success of the Iraq venture and the presence of an anti-war movement. Oddly, it seems that instead of allowing the conservative media a free hand to shape the public's image of the war, the decline of anti-war protests has somehow resulted in, or at least paralleled, the wider American public's view that the war is going badly and that the administration is not handling it or the war on terror well.

Meyerson himself acknowledges a confusion generated by this development. One the one hand, united Democratic opposition to the president's Social Security plan seems to have stalled the move towards privatization, suggesting that the traditional duty of the opposing party is to oppose can bear political fruit. On the other hand, Democratic acquicence to the Iraq war and the administration's broader war policies seems to have allowed the Republican Party to sink in the mire of its own ineptness.

Whatever the actual causes of the public's shift in sentiment, however, the decline in protests means the administration has lost a group to demonize, leaving itself to bear the brunt of its policies without the benefit of shifting the blame and allowing the public to draw its own conclusions, despite the best efforts of Sinclair Broadcasting, Faux Nooz and the other tentacles of the conservative establishment to glamorize the war and the administration they support.

The other item of interest escaped my attention at first. It was the picture above the fold on A1. The picture is of an American serviceman with a group of Arabic looking villagers and children surrounding him. At first I assumed the picture was taken in Iraq and was meant to imply one of those feel good stories about Americans winning hearts and minds.

I was wrong. The picture was of an American serviceman and Arabic villagers in AFGHANISTAN. The article highlighted the fact that there are still American troops in that country trying to ward off remnents of the Taliban. Almost forgot about that war on terror(ism). But it's still going on.

The combined effect was to confirm the messiness of our endeavors in the Middle East for which I don't believe there are any easy solutions. For the party out of power this represents an opportunity. I'm not sure I believe the conventional wisdom that suggests that Democrats must have an alternative narrative for the war on terra or on any other issue. I'm not big on CW anyway. But Democrats would perhaps do well to study the lessons from their approaches to opposing the administration on Social Security while allowing it a wider range of latitute on foreign policy. It suggests to me that despite the party's well documented failings and the electoral obstacles it faces, the party's best friend may turn out to be the party in power it opposes.

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