During the Bush years, left-of-center critics noted a curious phenomenon among backers of the war in Iraq. Regardless of how bad the situation looked, it was always a vindication of the hawkish world view.
The occupation has been a miserable failure? That's because we didn't have troops, we haven't been tough enough, and we need more-expensive military hardware. And when the Iraq Study Group proposed scaling back the war effort, many anticipated a so-called Dolchstoss strategy, a reference to the laments of German militarists in the wake of Wilhelmine Germany's defeat in the First World War. Rather than blame the Prussian military elite for dragging the country into a disastrous war, the militarists blamed various internal enemies—including, of course, the Jews—for "stabbing Germany in the back," and undermining what should have been a successful war effort.
Failure will be seen as an inevitable consequence of the fact that the legislation was, as liberal wonks insist, a “moderate Republican bill.”
On the anti-war left, there was a pre-surge suspicion that any withdrawal from Iraq would lead the right to proclaim that the Iraq occupation would have succeeded if only those dastardly liberals hadn't stabbed America in the back. The argument had a certain logic to it, but of course the surge strategy meant that it was never tested.
• More Daily Beast writers on the health-care vote.Now, however, we're about to see a Democratic version of Dolchstoss. If you believe as I do that the president's health-care reform legislation will not perform as advertised, you can see it as a failure of the policy itself. Or you can see it as an inevitable consequence of the fact that the legislation was, as liberal wonks insist, a "moderate Republican bill," one that true progressives supported only very reluctantly. So to fix the legislation, we'll need to spend more money, further centralize the system, and impose tighter regulation and control. And if that doesn't work, well, clearly we need to spend still more money, centralize the system even more, and impose even tighter regulation and control. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Reihan Salam is a policy adviser at e21 and a fellow at the New America Foundation.