Should the war have an end date?

The Democrats' opposition to the war in Iraq is hardening, said Robin Toner in The New York Times. The House and Senate have passed separate bills that provide $100 billion in new funding for the war only on the condition that most U.S. troops are withdrawn by next year. President Bush has angrily vowed to veto the Democrats' bill, and the Democrats lack the votes to override that veto. Still, after years of fearing they'll appear weak on national security, even the Democrats seem surprised at their own 'œaggressiveness and unity' in demanding a specific date for American withdrawal. Their resolve arises from a simple political reality: Polls say about 60 percent of the public wants troops to start coming home by next year. 'œLast summer, I didn't want to do anything to hurt the morale of our troops,' said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who has switched his position on funding the war. 'œAt this point, we're beyond morale. We're in serious jeopardy.'

What a terrible time for the Democrats to discover their nerve, said Mario Loyola in National Review Online. For years, the White House failed to provide enough troops to pacify Iraq, but now Bush's 'œsurge' of 21,000 troops appears to be working. The Shiite militias have left the streets to U.S. patrols, and Baghdad is noticeably less violent. But Democrats are acutely aware that if Iraq ends in embarrassment and disaster, Republicans will lose the White House in 2008 and, perhaps, for many election cycles thereafter. That means Democrats can 'œ'lock in' their electoral majority if they precipitate a defeat in Iraq,' which is why they're so anxious to start withdrawing troops. The enemy can smell this 'œfaintheartedness,' said Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe, and has stepped up suicide bombings outside Baghdad. The insurgents know that the more people they kill, the louder Democrats will clamor for the U.S. to raise the white flag, leaving millions of Iraqis at 'œthe mercy of barbarians.'

They're already at their mercy, said Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek. Sectarian mayhem has left the nation in shambles, with the Shiite-dominated government tacitly sanctioning ethnic cleansing and 'œvigilante violence.' In recent months, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised the U.S. that it would disband the militias, rid the Cabinet of Shiite extremists, reach an agreement for distribution of oil revenues, and seek a political reconciliation with the Sunnis. 'œNothing has happened.' In their funding bills, the Democrats rightly insist that the Iraqi government meet these critical benchmarks or lose the support of U.S. troops.

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