Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Political Divisions

Taking on David Brooks' idiocy in a somewhat more comprehensive manner.... When I saw the headline for his piece, and the blurb in the New York Times RSS feed, I thought, "He's stating the obvious." You can't win a national election without pulling together people with divergent interests, and you can't make major policy changes without causing some of them to become unhappy with you. Such an article would have been stating the obvious, but for the most part that's all Brooks does.

Instead, he claims that even though the Democratic candidates are running on a platform that puts health care reform front and center, and Iraq war policy close behind, that the people who vote them into office will suddenly become aghast at any effort to translate those campaign promises into policy. Note to David: Those people are going to vote for McCain.

Brooks first imagines that the Arab world will oppose our withdrawal from Iraq (as if we would withdraw to the point that we could not continue to guarantee the flow of oil), that the military will oppose withdrawal (loss of military progress, even in the face of zero political progress), and he imagines that this withdrawal would occur on the eve of elections (yeah, right) and thus that Americans would scream about our not giving the elections a chance. (Because the last elections, and the associated propaganda about "purple fingers of freedom" proved so successful in turning things around, right?) He also imagines that the fringe group who wants to "bring all the troops home now" will have the ear of Congress or the President. They won't.

I think it is pretty clear at this point that we will not see political progress in Iraq as long as we maintain the status quo. The Shiites have no incentive to share power with the Sunnis - they are the majority, and are happy to wait us out and make Iraq their country. The Sunnis have no incentive to compromise with the Shiites - the compromises offered tend to worsen their position, anyway, and they don't expect a long-term benefit from any current deal. The Kurds are pretty much doing their own thing - does anybody actually expect them to join in any sort of Iraqi state that would be able to impose its will upon them, as opposed to a loose confederation? The Iraqis don't share all of our goals for the country, and even when they do they aren't necessarily capable of implementing them. Prolonging the occupation won't change that.

Brooks is one of the champions of endless war. He'll be one of those bringing out a "parade of horribles" about what withdrawal will mean. He'll be among those smearing the proponents of any effort to end the war. But he as no ideas - zero, zilch, nada - about ending the conflict. The answer from his brand of useful idiot is always the same, "Even if our track record is one of total political failure, we should just keep doing what we're doing."

You know what? Brooks has a full year to demonstrate that "doing the same thing, over and over again" will finally produce different results. If it does not, I fully expect that the 61% or so of the population that supports withdrawal will grow. If he truly wishes endless war, he had better start thinking of something more persuasive than, "If we keep doing the same thing, eventually things might improve."

This also ties into his second argument - that despite eight years of total fiscal irresponsibility under G.W., it falls upon the Democrats to once again play the part of the fiscal grown-ups, balance the budget, and pay down the debts of an irresponsible Republican administration. Say what you want about Congress passing the budget, the fact is our present fiscal situation is the direct result of Congress's implementing GW's spending (and tax cut) priorities. Brooks whines that health care reform will be expensive. Yes, but here's one for him - it can be sold as a trade, with the $200 billion per year we're wasting in Iraq being shifted over to a policy that actually benefits Americans. (Sorry if you don't like the term "waste" - but for the period of time after Hussein's regime was toppled, unless and until we achieve political progress we're pouring good money after bad.) During the transition out of Iraq, they can borrow from GW's "Brooks-endorsed playbook" - "We're at war, so we get to run up deficits, and not to worry - the budget will (miraculously) balance in five years," coupled with optimistic budget projections.

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