SO WE HAD THESE HEARINGS ON IRAQ, and generals Abizaid and Zinni are arguing against timetables for withdrawal, which has been the Democrats’ main policy proposal.

Did the Democrats know beforehand that this is what the generals thought? If so, were they dishonest in not taking it into account? Maybe they were relying on this sort of thing to keep from having to do what the MoveOn crowd wants, but what they know is wrong?

Or did they not know, making them clueless? Neither one’s impressive. But since the big criticism of Rumsfeld, which led to his defenestration, was that he “didn’t listen to the generals,” what are the Democrats to do now that the generals have spoken?

As Dave Price notes, this is Bush’s Iraq trump card:

The bedrock political strength of Bush’s Iraq policy is that it rests on the advice of the military, in which public trust runs deep and wide, whatever they may think of the war itself or the decision to invade. Democrats may have no qualms about calling Bush incompetent, but witnessing how quickly they ran away from Kerry’s perceived knock on U.S. troops, it’s safe to assume they will be very wary about voicing similar opinions regarding the commanders on the ground in Iraq. That public view of the military as nearly sacrosanct is a major difference between now and Vietnam, and it puts the Dems in an awkward position when they advocate a position the military vehemently disagrees with.

Sure, Iraq hasn’t lived up to the naive predictions of some (“two to three months of a very strong military presence”), but as wiser heads noted, “Victory in that dark, intricate conflict remains years away. While the operational victory is extraordinary, strategic victory in the War on Terror requires focused and sustained military, political and economic efforts.” [Later: See this, too.]

Cut-and-run doesn’t fit this strategy, and it’s nice to see the Democrats being reminded of it. It’s too bad, though, that the media neglected this stuff — along with a lot of other things — before the elections, as part of their effort to deliver Evan Thomas’s 15 percent to the Democrats. Still, better late than never.

Plus, this seems right to me: “Our goal now must be to focus on projecting power on Iran, and preventing an open Al Qaeda base from establishing itself in Sunni Iraq. And we must protect Kurdistan.”

UPDATE: A reader emails:

My son is a Marine and is scheduled to deploy to the sandbox this spring. His first time there, but not the first time the fundamentalists have tried to kill him while in uniform.

While going through SOI (School of Infantry) a couple of years ago, one of his sergeants told the class that this would take over 5 years to get the Iraqi army to the point of being able to defend the country. He also told them not to listen to what people predicted about getting out of Iraq quickly. These guys were going to take some time to build up a seasoned fighting force (meaning Non-Coms) This was not “US policy”, just the comments from someone who knew his job and what it was realistically going to take to complete the task. I knew then that it was questionable if we had the stomach for that long of a commitment.

In case you are curious, the Marines do.

I’m not surprised to hear that.

MORE: Questioning the timing.