4,000 Dead In Iraq Underscores GOP And Democratic Approaches To War

Contrasting mental images. Think of a blond beauty. Think of a roadside bomb in Iraq claiming the lives of four U.S. soldiers. What do they have in common?

The U.S. war effort in Iraq. As yesterday marked five years since former POW Jessica Lynch was captured in Iraq, news broke that the American death toll in Iraq passed another milestone--that of 4,000 dead.

Lynch was the subject of a recent U.S. News story about how she and other Iraq veterans have moved on from war service. But the question, how or whether America intends to move on, has yet to be answered. It is clearly poised to become one of two decisive issues in the upcoming presidential election, the other being which party is better equipped to revive the troubled economy. Both Democratic contenders, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, promise a speedy pullout of most U.S. combat brigades from Iraq, while Republican nominee Sen. John McCain told CNN recently that "the surge is working," and a pullout would hand victory to al Qaeda.

What impact, if any, is this new milestone likely to have on the presidential campaign? Not much, except perhaps to highlight the differences between the GOP and Democratic approaches to the war. McCain's claim that "the surge is working" may no longer be as rock solid as it has appeared to be. The New York Times reports, "Recent statistics compiled by the Pentagon suggest that after dropping significantly last fall, the number of daily attacks remained static from November through January, the last month for which official figures were available. And the relative calm has been pierced by a flare-up of violence in recent weeks."

Perhaps McCain's support for the war, 4,000 U.S. dead and counting, can do something for the Democratic Party that the party itself seems incapable of doing at the moment: uniting behind one candidate and handing victory to the Democrats in November.

By Bonnie Erbe