Ok, huge disappointment, no question. The bill, as is, is pretty much a failure, the Democrats should have pushed longer and for more. The Democrats still have not learned that the reason they have been seen as week on defense is not their failure to call for invading this nation or that nor for their opposition to this weapons system or the other. They have been seen as week on defense for the way that they stand up to Republicans on issues of national defense.
Democrats and progressives don't seem to see that their position on war effectively follows the postition of Sun Tzu in "The Art of War", namely
True excellence in the Art of War comes not in fighting a hundred battles and winning them all, but in accomplishing your national objectives without fighting a single battle.The Democrats have been reluctant to authorize military action because the nation would be better off achieving our national goals by other means. The nation as whole wants to hear this clearly and well argued, and if the Democrats did argue this position forcefully, they would be seen as strong. Instead they are caught in this belief that to appear strong on national defense they must support Republicans. Not only does this not make them look strong, it makes them look weak.
Now, I say that Democrats still don't realize this. As a party, this is true, the leadership is still way behind on this, but the message is seeping in. A growing portion of the leadership is starting to understand this and so we say the fight over the appropriations bill. Don't despair, we lost this fight but we are pushing forward. Keep in mind that it took 16 years, at least, for conservatives to rise from the 1964 to gain the control they wanted. We've been organizing for at most seven, and really more like 3-4. Also, with George Bush in office there is almost no chance of ending this war before he is gone. We might get a constitutional crises, but an actual end to Iraq will take time. The withdraw itself will take a year, in any case.
Another problem that we face in changing the culture in Washington is the inside the beltway mentality. The people who comprise the Senate and House, along with our political consultants and journalist pundits, comprise a very insulated population. In that world, the withdraw from Iraq is still seen as a crazy idea, and the perpetual hunt for a miracle in Iraq is a good idea. In that world Republicans are still seen as wise and strong on foreign policy and our national pundits are still viewed as sage counselors. We, the people, simply must keep up the pressure and do the work of getting the message into that culture that these things are simply not true. And furthermore the vast majority of the American people no longer believe them to be true.