Thursday, November 09, 2006

Here is to the last man standing

I went to this morning to see what public opinion was about the Iraq situation just before the elections. Here are two typical questions and responses from a CNN poll from 11/3 to 11/5.

Do you favor or oppose the war in Iraq?
33% favor; 61% oppose; 6% unsure.

Do you think the war with Iraq has made the US safer or less safe from terrorism?
35% safer; 56% less safe; 7% no change; 2% unsure.

Americans saw the Iraq conflict as the number one issue going into this week’s election. Nobody disagrees with that. The election results validated that a majority of Americans want to see a withdrawal from Iraq.

President Bush has not changed his opinion about staying the course in Iraq. Senator McCain wants to raise more troops and prosecute the conflict more vigorously. People vaguely talk about a grand new strategy to prosecute the conflict. The new strategy seems to be more of the same failed strategy.

Regrettably, there are no grand strategies to end civil wars. They are protracted affairs that last until one side is exhausted. Foreign military forces are mostly impotent in stifling a revolution’s excesses. Yet we have this attitude by some such as President Bush and Senator McCain that there is some sort of panacea.

We also hear calls from some for the new Congress to support the occupation when the obvious mandate from the American people is to begin withdrawing the troops. When the majority backs your opinion, let the will of the people rule. When it does not, disregard majority will on other grounds.

The dissenters against the Iraq war now rank themselves in the majority, and the pro-war faction is the minority. The problem arises with the Bush Administration. The President is the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress has given him broad war making authority. The Congress, by abdicating its authority to the President, has placed itself in a position where it must struggle mightily to regain it. Until Congress regains some of its traditional authority, the President will have his way, and damn public sentiment.

We also have the interesting situation where the military and intelligence agencies, the very people prosecuting the war, have dissented from the Bush Administration view of the conflict. In the past year, we have seen definitive reports that there was no Hussein/al-Qaeda link and that Iraq has served as a recruiting and training ground for terrorists, thereby weakening the US in the war on terror. An Administration that uses every opportunity to cash in on the support-the-troops rhetoric, does not care all that much about what military and intelligence agency leaders have to say. A certain class of citizen falls into the same category as the Bush Administration.

Doubts about success in Iraq span all ideologies. Last weeks much-publicized Vanity Fair article quoting Neo-Con doubts and reservations is a good example. Reality smacks all ideologues up side the head no matter where they come from.

The President still makes Iraq policy. The hope is that a more vigilant Congress, one that feels accountable for the election mandate, will establish some oversight, openness, and honesty regarding Iraq. Republicans who do not care about public sentiment and the facts will still support the Bush Administration line. The challenge is to keep putting pressure on the Bush Administration to account for failed policy and obfuscating rhetoric. Two years from now, we may have citizens, a President, and a Congress all agreed upon leaving Iraq. The Bush Administration may retreat from its positions, but it will retreat with a scorched earth policy.

The majority of American people have called for withdrawal from Iraq. Those who dissent from that view are already trying to pull a clever yet transparent end-around by putting the burden for a solution in Iraq on many folks who voted against going into Iraq. This blurs what has happened during the Bush Administration years. In many ways, the Bush Administration has gone a long way towards achieving its goal of unitary Executive authority. That has not changed post-election. The Presidential news conference yesterday indicates the President has not changed positions. He does not care about the election results. He will continue to prosecute the Iraq conflict in his own way regardless of public opinion. There is no way a new Congress will magically overcome a well entrenched and committed Bush Administration policy that disregards the facts and public sentiment.

The irony of this post is that I, who fancies himself a leftist, have defended the military, the intelligence agencies, and anyone who takes a realistic and skeptical attitude toward the chances of success in Iraq regardless of their ideology. Part of the reason for doing so is that there is a class of folks, including the Bush Cult, who want to fight it out until the last man or woman is standing, regardless of what the reality of the situation is. Whatever their motivations might be, they have aligned themselves outside traditional conservative, liberal, and socialist ideologies. Yet continuing a strategy that plays directly into terrorists’ hands seems like suicide.

I often use the toast, “here is to the last man or woman standing,” when drinking shots with the folks at the local bar. I can assure you from harsh experience, the last man standing is never the winner.


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