Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Democrats to Blame for Iraq

So hope Republican strategists, according to a recent column by Gwynne Dyer published in the Georgia Straight. In his commentary, Dyer provides sobering insight into the machinations behind the current debate over American troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Why, despite continuing evidence of failure, overwhelming public opinion, ostensible Democratic 'solidarity', and high profile Republican 'defections', has the President been able to maintain his troop surge without serious challenge? According to Dyer, it has as much to do with domestic politics as it does with on-the-ground realities in Iraq.

With respect to the latter, Dyer feels that it might still be feasible to withdraw the 160,000 US soldiers from the region in a reasonably orderly manner, but the collateral loss of life would be nothing short of tragic.
It would still be possible to get the 160,000 American troops out of Iraq without scenes reminiscent of the U.S. retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea (1950), let alone the British retreat from Kabul (1842)...
...The problem is the collaborators. Tens of thousands of people will probably be killed if they don't leave Iraq when the Americans do, from humble drivers and translators all the way up to senior political and military figures who are too closely identified with the U.S. occupation forces. But given the current state of American opinion about Arabs and terrorism, the United States will not welcome Iraqi refugees today in the same way that it took in Vietnamese refugees 30 years ago.
Fair enough. But more disturbing is the consideration that the status quo will be maintained because both Democrats and Republicans have conceded that troop withdrawal prior to the next Presidential election would be of no political benefit to either party.
From the Republican perspective:
All political attention in Washington is now fixed on the November 2008 election. That is already too close for a high-speed American withdrawal from Iraq to be forgotten before the voters go to the polls, so mainstream Republican opinion will back Bush's strategy down to 2009, even in the knowledge that it will ultimately fail. The alternative, an early withdrawal, is probably worse in terms of the election outcome in Congress. (I suspect that senior Republican strategists assume that the presidency is already lost.)
And from the Democratic perspective:
If the Democrats forced a troop withdrawal now, the Republicans would accuse them of "stabbing America in the back". If the pullout comes after they win the 2008 election, then the disaster will happen on their watch, and the fickle public will already have forgotten who really caused it. So–goes the prevailing logic in the Democratic camp–let's at least win the election before we get blamed for the mess.
So Bush's strategy is to "stay the course", endure whatever losses are incurred, and pass the blame onto the next President. And the Democrats seem happy to play along, if it improves their odds of securing the next election.
We can calculate that about 2,000 more American troops will die by early 2009 in the service of these political strategies
And God knows how many more Iraqis - if it even matters to American politicians anymore.


LeDaro said...

Gwynne Dyer is right. Sad and disturbing situation.

Anonymous said...

While I do think there are some valid points, I don't buy the premise that Democrats want to stay in Iraq. I think an orderly drawback of troops is what the majority want. I think they want it because its the right thing to do. But even politically, they would be able to go to the American people and say, "We delivered what you wanted."

I think the public can handle a messy, murderous Iraq. Afterall, that is what it is now - except their sons and daughters are in the middle of this. That will be America's shame (and I don't use that word lightly) whether or not the troops remain.

Democrats can have all the "will" in the world. But they aren't going to cut off funds to the troops and wear that yoke when soldiers die - nor should they. So until they can reach 60 (which means 10 Republican defectors really willing to vote against Bush for real instead of just speech), they won't have the votes to bring them home. And if Bush vetoes anything, they'll need 66 total votes.

It's not rocket science - it's math and constitutional law.

I just refuse this spurious argument that "Democrats secretly want the troops to remain."

I think Republicans might benefit from that perception so I'm doubly suspicous as that argument (and other red herrings) get play in the media.

knb said...

I like Dyer, because he doesn't carry anyone's water.

Anon, with respect, if you don't think the Dem's are playing this politically, choosing their safest option, I think you are being naive.

I think they are your best hope, but they have not been, imo, as strong as they should have been.

The VP and Pres, should be impeached for instance...Pelosi holds back so as not to look vindictive. Please.

I know the Dem's want out, but based on last night's debate, they are split on how.

If they could take hold of the gov't now, my belief is that they'd start drawing down and I would hope they would do it in a careful manner....taking into account civilian workers. Localised drawdown, perhaps without announcement.

Dyer has been right on this, every step of the way. Isn't it tragic when objectivity seems to hold no sway?

red canuck said...

Anon - Certainly an orderly drawback of troops is what the majority of Americans want, and a majority of Democrats. But the only ways for Congress to do that is to cut off funding, or to initiate impeachment proceedings, or something equally as 'dramatic'. They are quite obviously unwilling to go this route. Could it be because they are afraid of the political backlash they would have to endure (being labelled as 'backstabbers' or worse) and the effect this would have on their presidential hopes?

Dyer is pointing out that they may have been set up to take the fall for this no matter how it plays out. So while I'm sure they want the troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later, they have to realize the political reality of their situation. It seems to me they are now just biding their time until the next Presidential election. I mean, for heaven's sakes, Harry Reid was unwilling to even entertain Russ Feingold's call to censure President Bush!

It would be wishful thinking to believe that the Dems are not considering their political futures when devising their Iraq policies.

MD said...

I think your post brings up a bigger issue. As much as Americans may have suffered from poor government, they've been particularly ill served by weak and uncritical opposition. The Dems weakness was most devastating in the run-up to war, when most were too cowardly to publicly oppose an invasion (or the Patriot Act and other idiocies of the Bush administration). Now, with the shift in public opinion, some of the Dems have discovered their spines (at least in terms of rhetoric, though sadly not action).

I suspect the Dems are internally divided about the political consequences of withdrawal, so by inertia the overall effect of indecision is to "stay the course". No matter whether the pull out is quick or slow, it will be bloody. And Dyer is right...the collaborators are going to be left to be slaughtered. This will not end well no matter what.

knb said...

md: This will not end well no matter what.

You're right, it won't.

red canuck said...

That the misadventure in Iraq will end badly is a foregone conclusion. I'm amazed that the chickenhawks still use the tired rhetoric that "failure is not an option", and that no one really takes them to task over such a hopelessly flawed premise.