What had been the Republicans big selling point in the last two elections, the fact that we were supposedly at war, is now becoming a liability. As the midterm elections approach Republicans are becoming more and more nervous that four years of war have reaped only death, destruction, and a massive military credit card bill that still remains to be paid. That is not a recipe for victory in November - that is a recipe for sweeping changes in Congress. A significant proportion of the electorate now feels that it is time to "throw all the bums out" more than any time since the early 1990s. As such, key Republicans will begin to distance themselves from the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East and will try to strike their own balance. This fracturing of the Republican political machine certainly spells trouble for the GOP in November.
You can expect the Republicans will try to turn this sows ear into a silk purse by blaming everything on the Democrats. Republicans will say that Democratic nay-saying broke the will of the American public and forced retreat. They will say that Democrats aided and abetted the enemy by criticizing the war and how it was prosecuted. They will say the Democrats hate America, hate our troops, and just want to bash the president. This will work with the core Republican base, because they live to hate Democrats, but I doubt it will have much effect on the rest of the electorate. Americans know the Democrats did not put our troops on the ground, Democrats did not make decisions on the numbers of troops, their equipment, their deployment, their redeployment and re-redeployment, nor did they participate in the war planning. That was entirely a Republican production. Indeed, many Democrats argued against going to war in Iraq right from the get-go, including me. We were shouted down and called cowards and appeasers. Nonetheless, Republicans will try and place the blame for failure in Iraq squarely on the Democrats.
Republicans will also use the fear card, as well as other means to try and keep as many voters on board with their plans as possible. In fact, I believe that the recent scare over sports drinks and toiletries on airliners had nothing to do with safety. Nobody in their right mind could possibly think that lipstick or face cream could be an explosive. However, I do believe that requiring everyone to "surrender" their toiletries and sports drinks before boarding planes was a type of psychological operation perpetrated by the Homeland Security Department. I believe the purpose was to try to rekindle the feelings of camaraderie and shared purpose by asking passengers to sacrifice their toiletries for the good of all. It was meant to bring back feelings of national unity associated with turning in nail clippers and scissors before boarding planes right after September 11th.
Finally, it is worth thinking of the war in Iraq as the neoconservative's version of the war in North Korea. President Eisenhower warned the nation about the growing power and control that the military-industrial complex had over the functioning of government. Calling a truce in Korea and leaving 50,000 troops there for 50 years has been a major boon for many military contractors. The same would be true if we stayed in Iraq, building and supplying military bases for another 50 years. Perpetual war means perpetual profit. It is becoming impossible to view the war in Iraq in isolation from the massive level of government spending and the burgeoning pile of contractor profits. All of this is on the American taxpayer's dollar - no - actually on the taxpayer's national credit card, with a massive balance remaining to be paid. The contractors have the borrowed cash in their bank accounts - the American taxpayer has endless tax bills to pay for the rest of their lives.
As things deteriorate further in Iraq, as they seem hell-bent on doing, I expect the Republican rhetoric to intensify in lockstep. The attacks on Democrats will be ruthless and groundless, but they will come rapid fire, and from all directions. The question is, will these tactics get the Republicans 51% of the votes again this time? If so, expect two more years of exactly what you've been getting for the last six years.