Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Democrats and Iraq


On a superficial level, Jackson Diehl makes some good points in his column, "Reclaiming the Democratic Agenda" - although the headline foreshadows its weaknesses. Diehl suggests that the Democrats should embrace an agenda to "win" in Iraq. Describing a book which outlines a possible agenda to bring some meaningful reform to the Middle East, Diehl laments,
Unfortunately, Pollack and his fellow Democrats acknowledge, no liberal policy in the Middle East will work if Iraq fails.
No liberal policy? Even having acknowledged "Bush's cynical policy of demanding democracy from enemy regimes such as Iran and Syria while tolerating the continued autocracy of such friends as Egypt and Saudi Arabia", Diehl provides no explanation for what type of policy (liberal, conservative, or other) would succeed in the Middle East if Iraq fails. No matter how cynical you may be, or even if you would view it as a sufficiently successful conservative policy, it seems unlikely that the next Republican presidential candidate will be pitching a "Replace Hussein with a good totalitarian despot" policy.
While Democrats differ over whether the invasion was right, notes an introduction by Marshall and Jeremy Rosner, both national interests and national honor demand that "we not abandon the Iraqi people to chaos and sectarian violence."
Maybe the candidate can pitch this new program as "victory with honor." That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? For that matter, is it necessary to speak of both "national interests" and "national honor", other than as a rhetorical tool to trap an opponent? After all, if a policy advances "national honor" but simultaneously undermines "national interests", sometimes you have to swallow your pride and do what is right for the country.

But seriously, why is it that only the Democrats are expected to formulate an advance a plan, while the Republicans are given carte blanche to propose the meaningless choice between "sticking it out" and "pulling out now"? If as the book Diehl endorses suggests, "President Bush and his team have mismanaged virtually every aspect of postwar reconstruction", aren't we continuing toward a point where "sticking it out" will leave us with no choice but to abandon Iraq, whatever the consequence to our national interests and honor?

3 comments:

  1. “But seriously, why is it that only the Democrats are expected to formulate an advance a plan, while the Republicans are given carte blanche to propose the meaningless choice between "sticking it out" and "pulling out now"?” – precisely because we already have a nonsensical “policy” so if someone wants to campaign on the idea that they could do better, it behooves them to be able to explain why there policy would be better and what it would be . . . candidly, I don’t think it would be all that hard to formulate a better plan than what is in place now.

    “No matter how cynical you may be, or even if you would view it as a sufficiently successful conservative policy, it seems unlikely that the next Republican presidential candidate will be pitching a "Replace Hussein with a good totalitarian despot" policy”. – They may not be “pitching” it, but they bloody well out to be thinking it. Right now, a relatively secular despot who did a little bit better job of respecting human rights than either his predecessor or the mullahs would look pretty darn good.

    CWD

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  2. The problem with that response is that the Republican Party is not just President Bush. If it is good enough for the party coming into the midterm elections, or good enough for a Republican Presidential hopeful, to pretend "stick it out" is a plan, why isn't it good enough for everybody?

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  3. It would be, except that the "everybody" in question includes mostly people who are running (in part) on a platform of "Bush messed up and we will do it better." Once you promise to do it better, the burden shifts to you to show what you will do and why it will be better.

    Look at it this way, one side is saying "we will keep on doing what we are doing and hope the results get better." The other side is saying we will do something else. I can see what the "old thing" was and I can listen to people on NPR analyzing it every day, it is on the news every night and generally involves dead GIs coming home in bags while the Iraqi social structure crumbles. All the Dems have to do is show me something (rapidly approaching "anything") more likely to succeed than where we are now, and they will get my, and most everyone else's, vote.

    CWD

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