The Politics of Iraq

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Here, I will put aside any discussion of how or why we are in Iraq except in passing. This discussion focuses on the political positions taken on the Iraq war. Viewed from this narrow perspective, there are some obvious implications and consequences for the November 7 elections this year.

The polls are shaping the politics of Iraq. Wars unsupported by the majority of a nation's population, let alone the troops, will not fare well. Viet Nam is a sufficient example. Republicans are quoted these days making the claim that Democrats have no consistent or unified approach to Iraq. Whether they do or not, the point is, if Republicans believe that, then, Republicans may not blame Democrats for the polls showing Americans favor exiting our troops from Iraq in the seeable future. Hence, logically, it is the American people themselves and the media coverage of the Iraq situation that are responsible for the polls showing resistance to the "stay as long as it takes" policy of the Bush administration.

The Media, which the White House has full and complete access to has covered adequately their statements about progress in Iraq, and good news coming out of Iraq, etc. Additionally, ample coverage continues of, and by, the troops in Iraq; almost to the person sharing their view that progress is being made, though a majority seek and end in 2006. Side by side with this coverage has been coverage of the critics of the war's progress, as well as Pentagon releases of numbers of wounded and dead, which may be rightly viewed as coverage of the negative aspects of the war. In addition, there is growing coverage of the costs of the war for American taxpayers and bereaved families of casualties. Hence, it appears the media is not responsible for shaping public opinion about the war in one direction or another as voices from both sides of the issue received ample access to the public through the media.

This leads to the obvious and logical conclusion that the American people's opinion on "staying the course" or, "setting an exit plan with a time frame", has been made on their own without undue overweighted influence by either side of the political pundits and officials on this issue.

U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

The politics surrounding the war stem directly from these polls, for the Democrats have clearly stated the Iraq war will be Republican's albatross in November's elections. The Republican strategists have also admitted to this possibility freely on talk shows and editorials and the White House has taken in the last 10 days to making the Iraq war a strength in November instead of a weakness by launching a "cut and run" nick name to Democrats. Democrats appear to be responding with counter attacks of equal childish name calling referring to Republicans as "Lie and Die". But these are political tactics, not the underlying politics of the Iraq war issue.

Briefly, the politics of the Iraq war stem from a seemingly no-win situation in Iraq. If the U.S. withdraws before Pres. Bush leaves office, and Iraq fails to remain integral as a nation or, devolves into full scale civil war, it will be the Bush administration that will bear the historical responsibility for it. On the other hand, every day that goes by in which greater signs of peace, stability, and prosperity in Iraq are absent, the Bush administration also must bear the responsibility, and the costs of continuing in Iraq for Americans will weigh heavier on public and historical opinion.

The situation in Iraq, is progressively getting worse, if the polls in Iraq of public opinion and the continuous stream of violent incidents are a guide. This is not to say Iraq is doomed to disintegrate. What has been, and still is needed in Iraq after deposing Saddam Hussein to maintain peace, is sufficient martial law across the country to halt the violence by clamping down citizen movement and screening almost everyone who moves on city streets or in rural areas of Iraq. To date, the resources available have not made this possible.

The alternative, namely attrition of those causing the violence has so far not proven practical as polls out of Iraq of the people indicate. Forty two percent of Iraqis said in a Jan. 2006 poll, that killing Americans is legitimate and OK with them. More than 70% of Iraqis polled (PDF) indicated they want the U.S. out of Iraq within the next 19 months (24 months at the time the poll was taken). This growing hostility toward the American and coalition occupation is fueling recruitment, logistical support, and safe harbor for the insurgents in Iraq, and increasingly making martyrs of those who die taking out Americans.

Therefore, should the Iraqi government achieve their goal of establishing martial law and checkpointed restricted movement of its citizens to the extent that it virtually ends the violence in Iraq, will Iraq be a free and open democracy any longer? The answer appears to be an unquivocal no. For at that point, it would fairly be said, that Iraqis had more freedom under Saddam Hussein than under the new Iraqi Democratic government. Since the absence of WMD, the stated goal of the Bush administration has been to install and leave behind a working unified Iraq democracy which makes life in Iraq better than under Saddam Hussein. But, as just argued, that does not appear to be in the cards in the seeable future.

And that brings us to the heart of American politics over the war in Iraq. The Bush administration has only one card to play. That is to stay in Iraq until Pres. Bush's term is over and he vacates the White House. Then, Iraq will become the next President's responsibility and Pres. Bush may exit with his noble cause of democratizing Iraq intact. Whatever negative outcome happens to Iraq after the President leaves office will be less likely to adhere to President Bush if he can maintain the war without Iraqi disintegration and with a decreasing number of American casualties. So, it can be argued that since, victory in Iraq defined by the President as a stable and secure democracy favorable to relations with Western nations, is not in the cards before Pres. Bush leaves office, the worst thing the President could do for his legacy and that of his party is to withdraw from Iraq and risk dissolution of the nation and civil war.

On the other hand, Democrats like Sen. John Kerry have access to this same understanding of the situation in Iraq, and have no political choice but to call for a withdrawal from Iraq prior to the end of Pres. Bush's term of office. If American troops withdraw from Iraq in 2007, the natural consequences of what will follow in Iraq will work to Democrat's favor. If the the U.S. withdraws, and Iraq becomes more stable, and the violence decreases, then Democrats may argue that they were right in claiming that Pres. Bush's occupation in Iraq was a major source of the conflict; creating conflict which otherwise would have abated. On the other hand, if Iraq devolves into civil war, and the nation or government disintegrates, Democrats may also lay claim to being right in having said, that entry into Iraq by our military on erroneous WMD information created a quagmire for the U.S. in which victory was never possible. And of course, the responsibility for that quagmire rests squarely on President Bush's, and indirectly, on his party's shoulders.

These are the politics of the Iraq war being played out by Democrats and Republicans behind the scenes. Republicans will continue to push for staying in Iraq until Pres. Bush leaves office regardless of progress or lack of it. Politically, they have no choice. And there is evidence that the Bush administration is investing heavily in permanent military bases in Iraq supporting this argument. The Republican mantra will continue to be "stay the course" and "victory will be ours" which "cut and run" Democrats would cheat our nation and the Iraqi people out of. The Democrat mantra will continue to be "exit strategy with a time frame" and victory, if it exists for this quagmire, will be for the Iraqis to determine, not our military. And Democrats will hit the message that the "lie and die" Republicans who lied to get into Iraq and asked too many to die for the lie, will not quit, asking ever more to die for it.

For American voters seeking a party voting decision based only on the Iraq war, the choice is not that difficult. If the voter believes there can be a positive outcome to the Iraq war and that this outcome will pay dividends to stabilizing the Middle East and reducing the Middle Eastern threat posed by radicals toward the U.S. and other Western nations, then the costs in life and dollars for our war in Iraq can be justified, and a vote for the Republican Party will pursue that course. If on the other hand, the voter believes U.S. and coalition occupation in Iraq is a large source for the conflict and that staying in Iraq poses as big a threat to Iraq's future as pulling out of Iraq, then, the costs of staying in Iraq in lives and dollars are almost impossible to justify, and a vote for Democrats will be logical the choice.

Of course, November's elections will not hinge on the Iraq war only. However, it will be a major campaign issue, and both Democrats and Republicans will make every attempt to obfuscate the obvious. The Iraq war and its outcome is unknowable based on the facts available to the American public. Voters can choose to buy into the school yard name calling by Democrats or Republicans. Or, they can search their own mind to discover what they believe is possible for Iraq, and decide on that basis whether a vote for an exit strategy with a time frame, or a vote for an indefinite stay in Iraq, is appropriate for them and our nation's future.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 21, 2006 5:38 PM.

Bush: Will of the People is Meaningless was the previous entry in this blog.

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