Monday, October 23, 2006

Vote Democratic to Right the Ship of State

With the election only 15 days away, I offer the first of several posts making the case for voting Democratic, starting with a review of our sadly weakened position in the world.
The most fundamental issue in this campaign is George W. Bush's disasterous misdaventure in Iraq. It has been 1,271 days since Bush pranced triumphantly in his flightsuit underneath a banner that read, "Mission Accomplished." Today, our troops find themselves caught in bloody sectarian conflict that can hardly be described as a foreign policy accomplishment, and has little to do with our reasons for going into Iraq in the first place. The three principle reasons we were given for going into Iraq have turned out to be at best, delusional, and at worst lies:
1. Iraq was aiding and abetting al Qaeda. That turned out not to be the case.
2. Iraq's WMDs posed a threat to our security. That turned out not to be the case.
3. By toppling Saddam Hussein, we would unleash forces of freedom and democracy that would transform the region. That turned out not to be the case.
Unfortunately, the Iraq debacle has affected out ability to act in our interest elsewhere. Our military is bogged down in a no-win conflict, from which it is not expected to be extricated for several years. Don't think our adversaries in the world haven't noticed that. Instead of strengthening our hand in the Middle East, our presence in Iraq serves to advertise our weakness in the region and around the world. It is hard to conclude that the world is safer from the military threats posed by Iran and North Korea since Bush identified them as part of the "Axis of Evil" in January 2002. Today in the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby provides a depressing overview of our diminished standing in the world:

It's not exactly morning in America.
In Iraq, things get ever uglier, and the old remedy of extra troops now seems tragically futile. The Bush team has recently tried putting thousands of additional soldiers into Baghdad, and the result after two months is that violence there has increased.
Iraq is often seen as a special Rumsfeldian screw-up. But in Afghanistan, the Bush team quickly handed off to a model pro-Western leader backed by a broad NATO coalition. And what are the results there? The government is wobbling, warlords run drugs and the pro-al-Qaeda Taliban have 4,000 to 5,000 active fighters in the country.
All but forgotten in this mess has been the embarrassing fact that Osama bin Laden, he who attacked us 1,838 days ago, remains at large, popping up in the occasional home movie and the inevitable Republican advertising meant to scare us into returning them to power. Is fear of and anger towards bin Laden enough to keep Bush and his apologists in power? Will you feel safer if we give these screw-ups another two years of cluenessness when it comes to Public Enemy Number 1? Fixing this mess begins with restoring accountability and honest debate to the conduct of foreign policy. Bush and the ideologues he entrusted with our national security used every trick at their disposal to quash any serious debate on Iraq, and the subsequent results haven't diminished their eagerness to brand dissent as unpatriotic, using epithets like "Defeatocrats" and "cut-and-run" to scare voters into keeping them in power.
I don't know how to mend the mess we're in, but others who are experienced in foreign policy have given the matter considerable thought. I have highlighted two such voices on foreign policy, Joe Biden and retired general Wes Clark.
Biden and Leslie Gelb have authored an alternative plan for Iraq:
The Biden-Gelb plan would:
1. Keep Iraq together by giving its major groups breathing room in their own regions. A central government would be left in charge of common interests like defending the borders and distributing oil revenues.
2. Secure the support of the Sunnis -- who have no oil -- by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue.
3. Increase, not end, reconstruction assistance but insist that the oil-rich Arab Gulf states fund it and tie it to the creation of a massive jobs program and to the protection of minority rights.
4. Hold an international conference to enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.
5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, with a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.
Would it work? I can't judge. But I do think it's a meaningful contribution to a discussion on how to repair the mess we're in. One can only wish we could have had such a debate about going in as we are about getting out. As for Afghanistan, General Clark recently offered this gloomy assessment in Newsweek's international edition:
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, U.S. forces achieved a rapid, high-tech victory over Afghanistan's terrorist-supporting Taliban government. Five years later, the Taliban is back. But this is a different fight. Not only Afghanistan but NATO itself is at risk.
It cannot be said that Democrats don't have any alternatives to Bush's failing policies. Rather it appears, as in this Washington Post story, that it is the Bush administration that lacks imagination on what to do next:
President Bush met with his top advisers and military commanders on Iraq yesterday in a White House session that, senior officials said, weighed options for forging a way forward amid the surging violence but did not contemplate any major shifts in strategy.
The meeting, which the White House called the third in a series Bush has held with this group to consult on the war, did not consider any significant policy changes, a senior official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss private meetings. And in his Saturday radio address, Bush offered no indications on any major shift, even as he acknowledged the increasing violence in Iraq.
As for those who criticize Democrats, including Delaware's senators for their support of Bush's authority to use force in Iraq, I have this reply: There are many Americans who lined up, some reluctantly, behind our commander-in-chief. Many now regret their votes and speak of correcting course. Even Tom Carper, one of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate, has called for a change of course, as in this statement, dated June 21, 2006, in support of an amendment to a defense appropirations measure:
“The president’s policy of ‘stay the course’ isn’t working for our troops and it’s not working for the Iraqis. Insurgent violence is on the upswing, and our efforts to help rebuild Iraq and increase oil production are at a standstill. It’s time for a new direction in Iraq.”
Whether or not you think Carper has been sharp enough in his criticism of Bush, you cannot excape the conclusion that, if Democrats regain control of the House and perhaps the Senate, then Congress will challenge the policies that led us into this debacle. Others, mostly Republicans, still refuse to publicly admit any error of judgement, and go so far as to attack as unpatriotic those who dare to disagree.
The actions and rhetoric of the Democrats and Republicans leave little question as to how to vote: If you wish to maintain this decline in our country's national security, vote to keep the current Republican leadership in power. If you want to change the disasterous course set by George Bush and the Republicans in Congress, vote Democratic.

6 Comments:

Blogger jason said...

Nice.

I almost bought it when it came to Carper then I remembered that he voted to give Bush more power AFTER that June 21st statement.

In other words he voted to give Bush more power with the knowledge that Bush was a terrible person to give more power to. Carper's vote on habeas can only have come from a desire not to be attacked by Ting from the right.

In other word he sold out the constitution to ensure a 64% win instead of risking a 59% win. That is some un-American f'ed up thinking.

One other thing, when you get here:

Others, mostly Republicans, still refuse to publicly admit any error of judgment,

It is almost as if you are taking pains NOT to mention Michael Castle by name. I don't get that.

9:30 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger TommyWonk said...

Relax, Jason. I plan to discuss policy for several days before turning to specific candidates, when I will mention Mike Castle by name. I'm a fairly methodical guy and do get to the point eventually

9:56 PM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

Tom
you have such patience, with your commenters as well as with your remarkable posts!!

I tend to rush through the best I can and rarely get a great analytical piece in.

Kudos for the top notch wonkery!!!

10:05 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger jason said...

I meant to add that while I think Carper's habeas vote was a travesty. I don't want to see an "R" in that seat out of spite.

10:43 PM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous FSP said...

You know I don't agree with your premise, but I can't say that you don't know how to present your argument clearly and free of emotion. Impressive.

9:47 AM, October 24, 2006  
Blogger TommyWonk said...

Dave, thank you for your very kind compliment.

1:55 PM, October 24, 2006  

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