Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bush wins the political war on Iraq

Yep. Sorry to say that. But as a member of the Reality-based community I need -- and you need -- to face reality. Here are some of the points I raised in a recent column:
In the aftermath of a very hectic week in Washington which focused on US policy in Iraq, there is a growing recognition among lawmakers and pundits that US President George W Bush is going to win the political and legislative war at home over the military war in Iraq.
The United States is going to 'stay the course' in Iraq at least until President Bush leaves office in 16 months. The decision on what to do about US military presence in that country will have to be made by the next occupant of the White House - long after Mr Bush concludes his two terms in office.
Hence, despite continuing opposition by a large majority of the American people to President Bush's Iraq policy and their support for setting a timeline for withdrawal from that country, the Democratic leaders who control both the Senate and the House of Representatives have failed to come up with legislation that could force the White House to change its strategy in Iraq.
And while there are no signs that there has been any major shift in the American public's attitude after last week's Congressional hearings and the testimonies by Army General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, there are also no indications that the Democrats are now in any way in a better position to get Congress to stand up to Mr Bush on Iraq.
In order to impose their preferred policies on the White House, the Democrats need to gather a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Before Congress left for its summer recess, Democrats hoped that several of the Republican lawmakers who are running for re-election in November 2008 would end up joining them in calling for a substantial withdrawal of US military forces in Iraq before the end of President Bush's tenure at the White House.
Democrats have a razor-thin majority of one vote in the Senate. They need 60 votes to avoid a Republican filibuster and get any plan for Iraq to a vote. They then need 67 votes to override a possible presidential veto.
Mr Bush went on the airwaves last Thursday evening to endorse the recommendations by General Petraeus to reduce US troop levels by some 30,000 by August next year, which would leave at least 135,000 US troops in Iraq.
Most of the Republican lawmakers who have been dissatisfied with the war have indicated that they are now inclined to support the White House's proposal for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq and will reject calls for setting a Congressional timeline for withdrawal.
But the Democrats' leaders are still hoping that one of their proposals, which was submitted by Senator Jim Webb, which would mandate enough troop rest between deployments in order to force a reduction of forces in Iraq, could receive 60 votes in the Senate. It received 56 votes the last time it came before the Senate.
The Democrats are also facing enormous political pressure from their anti-war political base whose members oppose any move towards compromise over Iraq with the Republicans in Congress.
Since several Democratic Senators, including Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are also running for the presidency and are hoping to win the support of the mostly anti-war Democratic voters in the coming presidential primaries it is very unlikely that the Democrats will agree to support any proposal that does not have a firm Iraq deadline.
The end result is that - as one pundit put it - 'The presidential race and the Congressional elections are going to be dominated by three issues: Iraq! Iraq! And also Iraq!'
That a large majority among Democratic and independent voters are against the war means that the Democratic candidates will probably be in a strong position to win control of the White House and expand their majorities in Congress.
But at the same time, Democrats and anti-war activists are concerned that Mr Bush will continue to have enormous power in setting the political agenda through his policies, especially if he decides to increase the US military pressure against Iran and Syria.
Indeed, London's Sunday Telegraph reported over the weekend that President Bush and his advisers were taking steps to place America on the path of a war with Iran and are developing a list of up to 200 bombing targets in Iran.
The administration has also accused Iran and Syria of trying to subvert US goals in Iraq by providing aid to anti-American insurgents.
A US military attack on Iran will only make it more likely that the next American president would be forced to maintain and perhaps even increase the US military presence in the region


daveg said...

The Democrats could go nuclear and cut the funding.

I think the (majority of) American people would agree with this, but I don't have a professional polling organization on retainer.

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