Politics of Iraq going south in a hurry for Bush
see "Official: Iraq gov't misses all targets" (AP via Yahoo, 7/9/07)
According to the AP, a new progress report on Iraq will say that "the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform". This interim report is part of a required certification that Iraq was meeting goals required of it in order to keep receiving massive US financial assistance, although it is not clear that a bad report will bind the President or Congress to cut off Iraq immediately.
Given the move by some well-respected senior Republican Senators such as Richard Lugar and Pete Domenici to abandon the surge and suggest that we start moving troops out sooner rather than later, the upcoming interim report is nothing but bad news for President Bush.
We should, however, not confuse this with bad news for the country, or for the GOP (not that I care a lot about how well the GOP does except that the Democrats represent a real threat to our national and international security and economic health.)
While one might question whether the move by such senior Republicans is primarily about domestic politics, it is hard to imagine that being Lugar's motivation since he is not up for re-election until 2012. Domenici is up for re-election in 2008, but given that it has been almost 30 years since anyone got more than 35% against New Mexico's senior Senator, he is not likely caving in due to fear of losing either.
Other Republicans who have been supporting troop reduction include George Voinovich (OH), Chuck Hagel (NE), and Olympia Snowe (ME). Hegel has been against the war for quite some time. As for Voinovich and Snowe, they are classic RINO's (Republicans in Name Only) so I do not make much of their positions. They do have reason to fear losing their next elections to Democrats. Except for the issue of control of the Senate, there would be little difference to the country if they did lose.
A recently updated Congressional Research Service Report on the cost of war in Iraq quotes a figure of about $10 billion per month for the war. (Note: That figure is exclusive of the costs for Afghanistan.) We get lost in these big numbers; they all start to sound the same. But what we're talking about here is approximately $333 million dollars per day, or $14 million per hour. On one hand, that's an enormous amount of money. On the other hand, it is an amount worth spending if pulling out risks our national interest to the degree that President Bush and others claim...and which I have to a large degree believed, but which I'm strongly questioning now.
Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute just wrote an interesting piece called "Would a Full-Blown Iraqi Civil War Really Be that Bad for the United States?". Eland is very anti-war, and I don't always agree with him, but this piece is thought-provoking. His key arguments is that if there were a civil war in Iraq that caused oil prices to rise, our economy would not be ruined in part because Gulf countries will have to keep selling us oil no matter what. He also posits that instability in the region would be not be as dangerous for Israel as others claim.
Eland's closing paragraph:
In sum, if the myth is properly debunked that instability in the Persian Gulf will disrupt Western economies, even an all-out civil war in Iraq doesn’t look that bad for U.S. security. In reality, the U.S. government’s primary goal seems to be to use military force to control the flow of oil to other nations, such as China and Europe. The Bush administration should give the U.S. taxpayer a break and abandon this expensive and imperial goal. In fact, it may be forced to do so as the clamor for a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq rises.
I still find myself unable to agree with Eland that a complete withdrawal is the best or most likely outcome in the short term. However, with each passing day I find myself slipping into Domenici-Lugar land. How many more young Americans and how many more tax dollars is Iraq worth, and for how long?
My point for today, however, is not whether we should or should not get of Iraq now or later. It is about the politics of the debate. I am, in my opinion, fairly representative of the electorate and in particular of "moderate" Republicans and independents when it comes to this issue. If that is true, President Bush's position is becoming increasingly untenable to every other Republican politician who actually does plan to run for another term.
To the extent that Republican Senators are acting based on domestic politics, they are probably more correct every day to believe that if we are not drawing troops out of Iraq in less than a year, the 2008 election will not only be terrible for the GOP in the House and Senate, but could actually see us elect President Hillary or Barack, either of whom would be a socialist, tax hiking, liberty destroying, nanny state disaster for America.
We need to start taking points of view like Ivan Eland's seriously, and particularly if we care about avoiding the horror that four years of total Democrat control of government would mean for Americans. Imagine the worst combination of LBJ and Jimmy Carter. We'll get LBJ's high taxes and desire to federalize everything, and Jimmy Carter's foreign policy and complete lack of understanding of what makes America successful.
With recent polls showing Hillary overtaking Rudy in popularity (even though I believe those are largely an artifact of people wondering about Fred Thompson entering the race) the specter of another Clinton presidency is far too real to be dismissed. The single most important thing that Republicans need in order to try to take back the Senate and keep the Presidency (I don't think they can take back the House in 2008) is for the public to know that electing a Republican president does not mean we will stay on the same path in Iraq. And the surest way to do that is to start getting off that path now, even if just in "baby steps".
I do not like the idea of leaving Iraq to be policed by Iraqis who thus far have shown minimal ability to do so and maximum corruptibility of their police. But if Iraq will take a decade to have any chance of "working out", and by "working out" I mean being something that is no worse than how Vietnam "worked out" because that seems to be our best case now, then even as a standalone issue Iraq is probably not worth more American blood and treasure. Combining it with the real risk that staying the course in Iraq gets us another President Clinton (and I can't believe I'm saying this, but she's probably the best of the Democrats) the argument for making a drastic change becomes compelling.
Despite the initial negative reaction of many patriotic Americans, for recognizing these things before most others, maybe Lugar and Domenici deserve cautious praise.
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