Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Countering the surge?

E.J. Dionne, Jr. explores the options Democrats have in responding to a surge. The least likely is Congress’ exercise of its constitutional power of the purse; the most likely is a resolution that amounts to mere posturing without assuming any real responsibility for the consequences.

The middle ground--revisiting the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq--has the advantage, to my mind, of a debate (whether it can be reasonable is another question altogether) about practical U.S. aims in Iraq.

I remember some examinations of the 2006 exit polls which suggested that not all the opposition to the President’s iraq policy came from those who wanted to get out as quickly as possible. Is there, perhaps, still a majority for doing what it takes to win in Iraq? This would lead Congress in a different direction than that imagined by Dionne.

Update: Here, courtesy of The Corner, is the Reid/Pelosi preemptive stike against a surge.

Discussions - 10 Comments

Joe - You’ve joined the loyal optimists!

I for one hope you are right.

I’d love to stay until the region is stable, democratic and favorable to Americans. So what are we looking at here? A couple of years? Couple of hundred? Eternity? Seriously, what do you think?

The downside of just pulling out is we will probably duplicate the same conditions in Afghanistan that spawned Al-Quaeda, but the downside of staying in is we are giving Al-Quaeda a training ground. "Fighting them over there" becomes another way of saying "keeping them over there by throwing them fresh meat."

Sorry to harsh the optimism buzz.

All good questions, and I don’t know the answers. My view is (1) we must not "fail" (the scare quotes indicating that achievable objectives at this point need to be redefined, given the mistakes of the past), (2) the president can articulate a new course and staunch the loss of confidence in him, and (3) Democrats in Congress will, when push comes to shove, not wish to commit political suicide.

Steve Thomas, the letter that constitutes Joe’s update is very discouraging. It’s what some of us pessimists have been expecting and dreading and, boy, do I hope it means the kind of political suicide you note in #3.


I still think we HAVE to win or at least come closer to what we, and the Iraqi-about-town (you know, the guy just trying survive and keep his family alive) could recognize as non-failure. (No wonder Bush decided to replace Abizaid.)


But Daniel K., how much time might it take to transform a people? Maybe not so long if you just kill off everyone who disagrees with you. We, the US, people accustomed to freedom, might have qualms about that, but there are clearly people in Iraq, and elsewhere in the world, who do not.


That letter ought to be more than an update.

Kate - Of course you may be right. We don’t know yet. In contrast to you, I am pulling for the Democrats in Congress to lead the party away from self-destruction - not just out of partisanship, but mainly because prolonged confrontation would weaken the country’s resolve. To put it another way, this president and this Congress need one another, and I still hope they see it that way. President Bush has, I agree, taken some positive steps. Momentous weeks lie ahead.

Steve Thomas, I meant that if the Democrats make us abandon Iraq to itself and its inner conflicts, THEN I hope it means political suicide for that party. I say so because I hope America, Americans, don’t end this thing Viet Nam style. Maybe it’s the mommy in me: you clean up when you’ve made a mess. I don’t know that we were wrong to begin the thing - a fine mess was already in place, but we would be very wrong to to leave the innocents to a slaughter.

Kate, I completely agree. If that happens, there will be one less Democrat.

So what do we foresee in the next weeks or months? We’ll have the president’s speech; we’ll have hearings, sometimes heated and occasionally sensational, looking both backward and forward; there will be a real debate, including furious editorial, op-ed and blog traffic.

It’s hard to see any short term outcome besides the president getting what he wants - let us remember that in extremis Lieberman can throw control of the Senate to the Republicans, and he is not-so-subtly putting out warnings.

Democrats in Congress will press the president’s witnesses and remain divided over a "surge." Republicans will be less divided and a whole lot more muted.

David Tucker and many others have pointed out the interdependence between the political and military situations in Iraq. The same will be true in Washington: the political landscape in, say, a year will hinge upon the outcome of the president’s gamble, which in turn largely depends upon Iraqi politics.

What do others foresee?

MAD, again? Though it is hard to see that, given the rhetoric out of Iran, Israel has any choice to but to obviously and apparently prepare for extreme defense. Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. meaning Olmert wouldn’t do it?

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