Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A New Slogan

Jonathon Alter has an interesting column in the June 25th issue of Newsweek. The premise is finding a slogan which will explain Democrats' plan for withdrawal from Iraq "without looking like surrender monkeys."
Alter notes that Congressional Democrats want to get out of Iraq and get tough on Al Qaeda at the same time, but that message isn't getting through. He has a suggestion:

Now, Democrats should embrace what I like to call "pull and strike"—pull forces from the streets of Baghdad, but strike hard at Qaeda positions in the Sunni areas and in Afghanistan, mostly from air bases outside Iraq. In other words, saying no to the folly of intervening in a civil war between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites isn't enough. Critics must also say yes—loudly—to calling in airstrikes on foreign fighters, who are increasingly being identified by friendly local sheiks determined to chase them out of their country.

The idea behind pull and strike isn't new, but its predecessor catchphrase—"strategic redeployment"—lacked a certain muscular quality and never caught on. Whatever it's called, the logic is clear. Pinpointing the whereabouts of Qaeda strongholds requires beefed-up intelligence, which has little to do with the large-scale presence of American ground forces. In fact, when we leave, and remove a major source of irritation, intelligence on the true terrorists will likely get better.
I like Alter's idea. To me, there is no question that we must remove our military from Iraq. We cannot win the civil war taking place there. But we also must deal with the terrorist threat from al Qaeda. Certainly the Iraqis no more want al Qaeda in country than they want the U.S. military.

Alter also notes that Democrats must deal with their forgeting to bring up Al Qaeda and bin Laden when they talk to voters. Every time one of Bush's minions mentions 9/11 Democrats must respond by reminding voters the man behind 9/11 remains at large because Bush stopped looking for him. Every time a Republican says war critics are forgetting what happened on 9/11 we need to respond by pointing out it is Republicans who have forgotten who was responsible for 9/11 and ask why bin Laden is still at large. Reporters need to be reminded of this, as well.

Alter's last two grafs are also notable:
To get a sense of how inept Democrats are at framing the debate, imagine if 9/11 had occurred under a Democratic president. You can bet that Republicans would go on the floor of Congress (and on cable TV) and say, "This is day 2,110 since 9/11 and the man who ordered the massacre is still at large." The next day, they would say it again, and again the day after that.

Whether Democrats call it pull and strike or something else, they've got to better communicate the two-pronged nature of their approach. This isn't about sloganeering. It's about clearly and memorably conveying the complex truth that leaving Iraq is not enough.
Keith Olberman reminds us each evening how many days have passed since "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. It's time we all start reminding the American people how many days have passed "since 9/11 and the man who ordered the massacre is still at large."

Today is the 2,109th day since 9/11 and the man who ordered the massacre is still at large.

[cross posted at Watching Those We Chose]