At a rally outside the Congress yesterday, the stalwart Lindsay Graham said “The only thing standing between us and winning is the Congress.” (Hat tip The Nation’s new J Street blog)
This is usually, and rightfully, called a Dolchstoss play, an agitprop maneuver the Nazis used after World War I to claim German army wasn’t actually beaten, it was undermined from behind the lines by Jews and Bolshies or whomever. It was a pretty effective tactic, because it tracks so closely to what people want to believe about their army. It’s more complicated to explain that the troops can’t win because Iraqis tend to hate being occupied by a Western troops, because occupations in that part of the world don’t tend to succeed, whatever. (The troops did achieve “victory” over Saddam Hussein, for all that’s worth.)
Graham, I suspect, knows the line he is pushing is a lie, because David Petraeus himself isn’t promising victory anytime soon, or at all. But if Graham can get the jingo right stirred up to think that Democrats in Congress have prevented the troops from achieving “victory”, who knows what might come of it. This is likely to become a big argument in American politics in the years ahead, so people who have opposed the war had best be ready for it. After Vietnam, this meme never really caught on, in part because Richard Nixon had the good sense to acknowledge the war was unwinnable and got the US out under reasonable circumstances, Gerry Ford didn’t tolerate any Dolchstoss stuff, and neither really did Reagan, at least until enough time had elapsed it was no longer toxic. I doubt we’ll be so lucky with Iraq.