Americans have largely forgotten about Iraq and have long since tired of hearing about it. That is in large part a reflection of our troops' success in reducing the violence and producing a stable enough situation for a government to stand up, albeit slowly.
For this reason, Obama's speech marking the end of combat operations in Iraq will play well with the public. In truth the speech was not so much a wrap up of the war in Iraq as it was a "Like-you-I-am-tired-of-hearing-about-Iraq-so-let's-just-declare-it-over-and-move-on-to-things-I-care-much-more-about" speech. That much is evidenced by what the speech did not contain.
• Context: Neither the name Saddam Hussein nor any reference to his history of brutality toward his people and his neighbors was mentioned, let alone his coddling of terrorists and his history of making threats aimed at the United States.
• Accomplishments: This was a speech devoid of statistics. Did US troops build any schools? Fix any roads? Treat any Iraqi children? Restore any power? Do anything other than get wounded and die? One wouldn't know it from the president's text.
People who don't generally pay too much attention to politics at this time of the year will hear about this speech (Iraq war over!), breathe a sigh of relief, remember that it was Obama who ended it, and move on with their lives. Ultimately, that will not redound much to Democrats' benefit in November, because this election is not about national security. On the contrary, Democrats will not be made to answer for their feckless political opportunism on Iraq unless something else happens.
That is why a Republican push for a declaration of Victory in Iraq and an accompanying national celebration is so important.
A united Republican push to celebrate America's unquestionable victory in Iraq would counter the narrative that the war just faded away. Rather, it ended with a qualitative result: a spectacular victory for America in the face of long odds and complete vindication for the leaders who decided to stick it out instead of tuck tail and run when Democrats wanted to.
It would also force the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats to put some action behind their platitudes on the war. Obama can say that the troops performed magnificently and wax eloquent about their sacrifice if he knows he won't have to actually do anything to honor them. Similarly, Democrats can bask in the glow of ending the war they all opposed if they don't have to face a choice about what that end means, victory or disgrace.
Calling on Obama and the Democrats to put some meaning behind their words by supporting a victory parade or some such national celebration (for which monies have been authorized in at least one of the Iraq War supplementals) will force every Democrat to either admit President George W. Bush and Republicans were right all along about invading Iraq and sticking it out there, or diminish the troops' achievement and their sacrifice.
Democrats will choose the latter, and was evident in Obama's speech. He simply could not talk about the war without mentioning our standing in the world allegedly suffering and our unity as a people allegedly coming under strain.
These are the arguments Democrats will make if Republicans force them to come out from behind their rhetorical defenses. And that will hurt them in November. Because as much as Americans may have tired of Iraq, they won't want to vote for politicians who won't take a victory when it's handed to them, choosing instead to run down America and her brave and selfless troops.