Sunday, May 27, 2007

What Memorial Day means to me

Sad to say, Memorial Day is simply yet another holiday to me, not unlike Labor Day or the Fourth of July. While there was some original intention for these holidays, the meaning simply isn't there for me. I do sincerely wish that I could say that these holidays had more meaning for me, but they don't.

Frankly, I can never remember exactly who or what we are supposed to be memorializing on Memorial Day. I vaguely recall some military-oriented parades when I was young, but to me a parade is a parade and the meaning is usually irrelevant other than as an excuse to... parade.

I consulted the Wikipedia article for Memorial Day and it tells me the following:

It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911.

Many people observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 pm Washington time. Another tradition is to fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers place a U.S. Flag upon each gravesite located in a National Cemetery.

In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day is also a time for picnics, family gatherings, and sporting events. Some Americans view Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer and Labor Day as the unofficial end of the season. The national Click it or ticket campaign ramps up beginning Memorial Day weekend, noting the beginning of the most dangerous season for auto accidents and other safety related incidents. The USAF "101 Critical days of summer" also begin on this day as well. Some Americans use Memorial Day to also honor any family members who have died, not just servicemen.

One difficulty I have is that with all the insanity related to abusively deploying U.S. forces for misguided missions such as Vietnam and Iraq and the whole so-called "Global War On Terror", it is rather difficult for me to focus on simply memorializing lives that may have needlessly been thrown away due to incredibly bad policies of our own government. Yes, we do want to memorialize lives that were lost, but not at the expense of glorifying the flawed processes which caused those lives to be lost in the first place.

Maybe we need a Memorial Day dedicated to the loss of truth, sanity, and reason.

-- Jack Krupansky

Did the Democrats really lose very much when they voted for war funding?

Superficially, it appears as if the Democrats were really big losers when they capitulated and allowed Congress to pass full funding for President's war in Iraq. But, in reality, I believe the Democrats are winning big-time.

First, the inability of a narrow-majority Democratically-controlled Congress to override a presidential veto was a foregone conclusion, so the political reality was always that President Bush would eventually get the requested money.

Second, although the Democrats did not have any withdrawal timeline in the final bill, the article in The New York Times by David Sanger and David Cloud entitled "White House Is Said to Debate '08 Cut in Iraq Troops by 50%" tells us that the White House is effectively already assuming that a timeline will be required well before the 2008 election season gets into full swing. So, the Democrats are actually likely to get most of what they wanted, albeit not quite on the silver platter that they wanted.

Third, because President Bush really needed this bill on his desk ASAP, he has been willing compromise in a numbr of other areas.

Fourth, one of those compromises was to allow a new federal minimum wage law sail right through, without hardly any objection at all. That is a really big deal, at least for some people.

Fifth, the administration agreed to allow Congress to put environmental and labor requirements in future foreign trade pacts.That is also a really big deal for some people.

Overall, that's not so bad for what seemed to be a stale-mate.

Sure, the anti-war "nuts" are grumbling, but that was going to be the case anyway. Like it or not, the Democratic party is left-leaning center, not far-left wing liberal. The November election "mandate" was not a vote for far-left liberalism so much as a rejection of far-right conservatism. The centrists are the rule now.

-- Jack Krupansky

Withdrawal from Iraq likely to begin in early 2008

After reading the article in The New York Times by Michael Gordon and Alissa Rubin entitled "Strife Foreseen in Iraq Exit, but Experts Split on Degree" it occurs to me that few people are really arguing against a start of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in early 2008, but simply what degree of chaos will ensue as the withdrawal progresses.

Although in theory by the end of September we should have a fairly clear view of whether The Surge is working, it also seems that giving it a couple more months, tell the end of the year, is being generous to all parties, and that we're unlikely to see better results by maintaining The Surge beyond the end of the year. Either The Surge has achieved most of its goals by the end of the year, or it is unlikely to ever achieve those goals.

As the article makes clear, a lot of Iraqis who dearly want the U.S. to leave are also not in favor of U.S. troops leaving too soon or too fast.

There is now no significant geoplitical downside to letting everybody know that we will be giving The Surge until the end of the year, and then begin a negotiated withdrawal, not too soon, not too late, not too slow, and not too fast. The Iraqis themselves, including militia leaders, will collectively need to come to terms and dictate to the U.S. the pace of the withdrawal and what stages the process should go through.

It is exceedingly urgent that any U.S. withdrawal be on good terms with the will of the Iraqis. Overstaying our welcome has been a problem so far, but leaving too quickly would be a problem as well. The key thing is that the Iraqis should be comfortable that the withdrawal process. Our interest is in having "friends" in the Middle East, and it will be in our great advantage if the U.S. can be counted as having friendly relations with Iraq and the Iraqi people.

Premising withdrawal on "establishment of security" is a truly lost cause. We have already given the Iraqis more than enough time and resources to "spread their wings" and "leave the nest", but our ongoing and intense presence actually deters them from actually "taking wing" and establishing a civil order that makes sense for the realities of their society.

What we here in America need to do is stop trying to micromanage the process for the Iraqis and simply do what makes sense for our common interests and work with the Iraqis on their own terms, subject to the reality that a withdrawal of U.S. forces is inevitable and likely to begin in less than a year.

The single most fascinating thing I found about the article is that in all of this discussion of Iraq and security and stability and regional issues, there was not even a single reference to Iran. That is a very interesting... um... "oversight." The simple fact is that the administration, hawks in Congress, and the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby are extremely focused on Iran and are intensely committed to staying in Iraq to deter a spread of "influence" by Iran, so for them any talk about leaving Iraq is 100% about Iran. But, here, in this highly analytical piece, we see not even a hint of the role Iran will undoubtedly play in the future of Iraq, its closest neighbor. I wonder what the reporters originally wanted to say about Iran, and how the editorial process led to not even a passing mention of Iran.

One simple truth is that the administration will likely go along with starting a withdrawal from Iraq next year, provided that there be a significant U.S. presence in Iraq for many years to come, precisely as a deterrent to the spread of Iranian Influence.

Another simple truth is that this administration simply won't have any say about the U.S. and Iraq and Iran or anything for that matter after January 2009 when the Democrats take over the White House and the Pentagon. But, I strongly expect that there are enough "realists" In Washington even in Democratic circles who understand the value of having at least a limited U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Ultimately, I think the Iraqis probably will be content to have a limited U.S. presence, at remote "bases", as long as the cities and towns and streets and highways and infrastructure are completely under control of the Iraqis themselves.

No matter what, it now looks very likely that at least a partial withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq will be underway by this time next year, if not sooner.

And, of course, there will be some accompanying level of chaos, but that is par for this type of course.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, May 26, 2007

We have turned the corner on Iraq

I suspect that we really are turning the corner on Iraq. Not so much in Iraq, but expectations are beginning to build for at least a moderate withdrawal sometime in 2008.

The article in The New York Times by David Sanger and David Cloud entitled "White House Is Said to Debate '08 Cut in Iraq Troops by 50%" tells us how even the White House is beginning to come to grips with the political reality of needing to be seen as "winding down Iraq" by the time Republican politicians have to face the people in the 2008 elections.

Although Iraq continues to be somewhat chaotic and remains likely to be so for quite some time, there is almost literally nothing U.S. armed forces can do to help Iraq evolve towards a more stable "civil society" and nation other than simply getting out of their way as soon as possible.

Although there is no shortage of tough-talking pro-Iraq politicians who have their diehard constituencies, the simple reality is that most Republicans need some dramatic relief on the Iraq "front" if they wish to win their elections in 2008.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will re-capture the presidency in 2008, but the Republicans have probably not given up hope and will be pinning all of their hopes on progress with exiting Iraq by the middle of 2008.

I'm sure any number of senior Republican politicians, conservative political power brokers, and political strategists are delivering this single message to the White House: "A serious wind-down of U.S. presence in Iraq must be underway by mid-2008 if the Republicans are to have any chance of seeing the 2008 elections as anything other than as the biggest rout of conservatives and Republicans, ever."

Anti-war Democrats will continue to fret and fume over how the party has abandoned them by allowing the vote for war funding, but the simple fact is that six months from now the question will be not if U.S. troops will be coming home from Iraq, but how soon.

The corner has been turned in the political process. We're about to head into the summer doldrums for Washington and the next stop is September, when it will be crystal clear whether the surge accomplished much at all, and the next step will be to debate how to begin pulling out troops, regardless of what the surge may or may not have accomplished.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mixed feelings about Jimmy Carter

I voted for Jimmy Carter for President twice and generally support his humanitarian efforts and was always impressed with his efforts to pursue peace in the Middle East, but still I have lingering concerns about him. I just read his criticism of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in a Reuters article entitled "Carter blasts Bush, Blair on Iraq" and generally agree with his criticisms, but Carter had enough of his own shortcomings in the national security arena, so this may be more a matter of the pot calling the kettle black.

Back in 1980, the economy wasn't doing so great under Carter's stewardship, his handling of the U.S. hostages in Iran was drawing fire, progress in resolving the Cold War was rather iffy, and his relations with Congress were hardly much better than those of President Bush. His "malaise" undermined support and resulted in his loss to Ronald Reagan.

One of the great unwritten stories of the post-Vietnam era is the extent to which U.S. funds were funneled through Pakistan to Islamic extremists in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet occupiers. In addition to botching the Cold War, Carter may have also had a key role in giving a boost to the global terrorism which climaxed with the attacks of 9/11. The U.S., under his stewardship was "using" terrorists in precisely the same way as the U.S. is today accusing Iran of supporting terrorists, and not that dissimilar to Reagan's attempt to use the Contras in Nicaragua (albeit with a difference in congressional support or lack thereof.) As I say, this story is largely unwritten, so we simply do not yet know precisely who said or did what and when they did say or do it or who knew what when. Nevertheless, Jimmy Carter's national security credentials are dubious at best.

It is certainly easy to criticize Bush and Blair, but I think Carter should chill out and focus on the things he does best and simply relish the simple fact that neither President Bush nor Prime Minister Blair will ever get a Nobel peace prize for their efforts in Iraq or their Global War On Terror.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Decline and fall of the neocons

There is an interesting article in TimesOnline (UK) by Sarah Baxter entitled "Decline and fall of the neocons - Paul Wolfowitz's departure from the World Bank signals the end of an ideological era in Washington" about how the fortunes of the Neoconservatives have faded over the past few years. Personally, I would be happy to see them fade away or even run out of town, but I suspect it is a bit too soon to suggest that their ideological influence is completely dead. The simple fact that President Bush and Vice President Cheney will remain in office for another twenty months is good reason to continue to regard this snake/octopus with the respect it deserves.

In my own personal view, even with the Democrats in nominal, so-called "control" of Congress, tentacles of the joint venture of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby will continue to exert undue influence in matters of foreign policy. The simple fact that the Democrats are unable to get even the members of their own party behind a withdrawal from Iraq is a measure of how deeply the Neoconservative/Pro-Israel mentality  is entrenched.

For the record, I never considered President Bush himself to be a Neoconservative. Rather, he is simply a political puppet, the front man. Yes, he made the final "decisions", but only after staff, either Neoconservatives themselves or simply under the sway of Neoconservative "whispering" in their ears, presented him with "options" on a silver platter in a form where only the preferred Neoconservative option would appear palatable to any "good Republican."

Although nominally about the Neoconservatives, the article focuses primarily on the travails and "fall" of Paul Wolfowitz, as if he were the personification of the entire Neoconservative movement. I can't help but wonder if the writer was in fact trying to "save" some elements of the Neoconservative movement (and or the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby) by seeming to sacrifice Wolfowitz, quoting but not challenging Neoconservative David Frum as saying that "The neoconservatives are a tiny faction and less close to each other than people think. They are very isolated within the larger back-scratching community in Washington." My response to that is that it was always the quasi-alliance between the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby that leveraged the Neoconservative thrust and continues to offer it at least some amount of support.

In a curious way, the article seems to try to separate the Neoconservative zeal from the passions of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby whose futures have always appeared at least partially intertwined, saying that "Wolfowitz's seven-year relationship with Shaha Ali Riza could have helped to humanise the former Pentagon official and put paid to the antisemitic slur that he was a Jewish agent of Zionism who placed Israel's interests above those of America and other nations." The writer states that without even a mere mention of the role of AIPAC in inciting U.S. intervention in Iraq, seeming to be comfortable with the notion that any criticism of a zealously pro-Israel policy would be inherently anti-Semitic.

There is an interesting comment in the article, suggesting that even Wolfowitz' zeal in liberating Iraq may have been at least partially propped up: "It was Riza who inspired Wolfowitz with confidence that the largely secular Iraq would flourish once Saddam was removed." Actually, I don't buy that at all. There were plenty of other Neoconservatives promoting the idea that a secular Iraq would "flourish." Maybe she helped to promote the idea to others, or maybe it was a matter of co-dependent egos, or maybe who knows what.

It will be interesting to see how the Neoconservative movement evolves once the Democrats are in control of the White House in 2009. It will also be interesting to watch Neoconservatism lurch around during the intervening period, but I suspect we will see more gossip and speculation than true enlightenment. We may have to wait another five years or more before we get a decent and informative port-mortem on the Neoconservative movement.

By then, we will probably be looking at the beginnings of the Neo-Neoconservative movement and its battles with the emerging Neo-Liberal movement, not to mention the Neo-Centrists.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Who are the Merchants of Fear?

This post is simply a bookmark to remind me to see if I can make any sense out of an article/post by Alexander Cockburn entitled "Who are the Merchants of Fear?" I haven't read it carefully yet, so I cannot say whether it makes any sense or not, yet, and cannot recommend that you read it, yet. Here are the opening paragraphs:

No response is more predictable than the reflexive squawk of the Greenhouse fearmongers that anyone questioning their claims is in the pay of the energy companies. A second, equally predictable retort contrasts the ever-diminishing number of agnostics to the growing legions of scientists now born again to the "truth" that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the earth's warming trend, the melting of the icecaps, the rising of the seas, the increase in hurricanes, the decline in penguin fertility and other horrors too numerous for individual citation.

Actually the energy companies have long since adapted to prevailing fantasies, dutifully reciting the whole catechism about carbon-neutrality, sniggering jovially over Tom Friedman's rapturous endorsement of "clean coal", repositioning themselves as eager pioneers in the search for virtuous alternative fuels, settling comfortably into new homes, such as British Petroleum's "Energy Biosciences Institute" on the UC Berkeley Campus, first fruit of a $500 million deal between the oil company and a campus whose founding family ­ the Hearsts ­ did after all make its pile in the mining business.

In fact, when it comes to corporate sponsorship of crackpot theories about why the world is getting warmer, the best documented conspiracy of interest is between the Greenhouser fearmongers and the nuclear industry, now largely owned by oil companies, whose prospects twenty years ago looked dark, amid headlines about the fall-out from Chernobyl, aging plants and nuclear waste dumps leaking from here to eternity. The apex Greenhouse fearmongers are well aware that the only exit from the imaginary crisis they have been sponsoring is through a door marked "nuclear power", with a servant's sidedoor labeled "clean coal". James Lovelock, the Rasputin of Gaia-dom, has said that "Nuclear power has an important contribution to make." (I refer those who rear back at the words "imaginary crisis" to my last column on this topic, where I emphasize that there is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind's sinful contribution.)
The world's best known hysteric and self promoter on the topic of man's physical and moral responsibility for global warming is Al Gore, a shill for the nuclear industry and the coal barons from the first day he stepped into Congress entrusted with the sacred duty to protect the budgetary and regulatory interests of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Oakridge National Lab. White House "task forces" on climate change in the Clinton-Gore years were always well freighted by Gore and his adviser John Holdren with nukers like John Papay of Bechtel.

As a denizen of Washington since his diaper years Gore has always understood that threat inflation is the surest tool to plump up budgets and rabblerouse the voters. By the mid Nineties he positioned himself at the head of a strategic and tactical alliance formed around "the challenge of climate change", which had now stepped forward to take Communism's place in the threatosphere essential to all political life. Indeed, it was in the New Republic, a tireless publicist of the Soviet menace in the late 70s and Reagan 80s, that Gore announced in 1989 that the war on warming couldn't be won without a renewal in spiritual values.

The footsoldiers in this alliance have been the grant-guzzling climate modelers and their Internationale, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose collective scientific expertise is reverently invoked by all devotees of the Greenhouse fearmongers' catechism. Aside from the fact that the graveyard of intellectual error is stuffed with the myriad tombstones of "overwhelming scientific consensus", the IPCC has the usual army of functionaries and grant farmers, and the merest sprinkling of actual scientists with the prime qualification of being climatologists or atmospheric physicists.

-- Jack Krupansky

Al Qaeda in Iraq

I've always dismissed the administration when they've said that "Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror", but now it appears that this may be the case, although not exactly in the way that the administration intended. It may now finally be clear that military force is in fact the worst way to fight the so-called "Global War On Terror" (GWOT.)

We are seeing a number of different "forces" come together in a clash in Iraq, political and cultural as well as armed, but essentially none of it has to do with acts of terror such as 9/11 and all of it has to do with power plays in the Middle East. So, if we seriously think that the intention of the "War on Terror" is to prevent follow-on 9/11 types of terror attacks, we are seriously mistaken. The sooner we disengage from our role as an antagonist in the Middle East, the better.

What Iraq does show us about al Qaeda is that they have a much bigger appetite for low-grade, ground-level infantry-style fighting and terror attacks than the calm, long-lead, careful planning, high operational security, disciplined types of attacks such as 9/11 or attacking commercial aircraft on a large scale or large-scale use of so-called "weapons of mass destruction."

The bottom line is that Iraq is in fact now acting as a "magnet" to attract most of the passionate terrorists and wannabe terrorists, making it far less likely that the overall effort of al Qaeda will be focused on 9/11-class attacks. The fact that the vast bulk of al Qaeda "action" is and will be ground operations in Iraq will result in the leadership of al Qaeda being focused on that type of operation. With even their leaders being focused on the instant gratification of ground attacks in Iraq, there will be little patience for the discipline needed for 9/11-class attacks.

Al Qaeda appears to be well along in morphing into being exclusively an army of foot soldiers.

In fact, efforts by the U.S. to publicly assert that al Qaeda is still intent on pursuing 9/11-class attacks can only embolden al Qaeda to continue such efforts that they might have abandoned by now if the U.S. were not so insistent on "propping up" a sagging al Qaeda interest in such attacks.

The alleged airline plot in Britain appears not to have been a central al Qaeda operation, and may in fact be a perfect example of how the public talk by the Neoconservatives and their pawns may actually be inciting attacks against the U.S. and its allies. In other words, the chatter by the Neoconservatives is tantamount to whispering "here's what you should try to do" into the ears of wannabe terrorists who otherwise wouldn't have had the imagination to envision the types of attacks that the Neoconservatives are publiclly chattering about. KSM and crew were an exception, not the rule, but they are now out of business. There is no benefit to anyone except the Neoconservatives and other members of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby of continuing to talk up a diminishing opponent.

Luckily for Britain, Tony Blair will be stepping down next month, so there will be far less of a "need" for terrorists to target Britain. And luckily for the U.S., the loss of the presidency to the Democrats in 2008 will eliminate the Neoconservative incitement. Iraq will continue to be a "magnet" for al Qaeda, but that means that a Democratic administration will be able to downgrade the whole GWOT and abandon inciteful rhetoric in favor of peaceful overtures and diplomacy in the Middle East. The abandonment of the Neoconservative and Bush "Crusade" will begin to sap at least some of the enthusiasm for "joining" al Qaeda.

Exactly how al Qaeda in Iraq will evolve remains to be seen. Maybe al Qaeda will simply continue to fight until gradually their passion for fighting dissipates, and maybe they will morph again into more of a political and social force than a revolutionary military force. In any case, it is best for U.S. military forces to simply get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Even if U.S. forces can calm the insurgency, al Qaeda is another story, and cannot be quelled with merely a troop "surge." Al Qaeda is far less a military problem than a social and political problem.

-- Jack Krupansky

Clinton or Richardson, or is it Clinton and Richardson?

I haven't been terribly impressed by most of the Democratic presidential candidates. Although Barack Obama gets a lot of attention and partisan passion, to me it has always seemed that only Hillary has the "complete package" to win a clear and convincing majority of voters in the 2008 general election. But then Bill Richardson came along. I've always been impressed by his raw competence. He isn't the charismatic type, but more of a solid leader and doer type. If Hillary is to lose out due to her "baggage", Richardson does not have that issue.

Personally, I would rather see Richardson in the White House and leading foreign policy, security, energy, financial security, and battles on other domestic and international fronts, but I do recognize that he simply may not exude enough "passion" to win some of the Democratic primary voters who value thrill and excitement more than ability and competence.

Maybe... maybe... maybe Richardson would be a great VP to Hillary's presidency. He certainly would excel in such a role, and that would position him to move up eight years later.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Governor Bill Richardson: Energy, Security, Climate: The First Step is Efficiency

My preferred "think tank" in Washington, D.C. is the New America Foundation, which is decidedly centrist, leaning neither sharply to the left nor sharply to the right. On Friday morning they will have a conference keynoted by (Democratic presidential candidate) Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) entitled "Is Energy Efficiency the Answer?" Bill's keynote is entitled "Energy, Security, Climate: The First Step is Efficiency." The conference blurb tells us that:

In an era of increasingly high oil and gas prices, concerns about CO2 emissions, and uncertainty about the security of supply, energy policy has come to dominate political discourse around the world. To date, the energy debate has centered largely on how to secure future energy supply and how to finance research into alternative sources of fuel. While these concerns are important, no energy policy will succeed without first mining our immense energy efficiency opportunities. After all, what's the point of increasing supplies that are destined to be wasted?

Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) will kick-off the event with a major announcement and speech on energy, security and climate policy for the United States.

The good news is that there is a very large opportunity to moderate energy demand growth in economically attractive ways--and, in the process, cut CO2 emissions. At this important energy and climate policy event, the McKinsey Global Institute will unveil the findings of their ground-breaking report Curbing Global Energy Demand Growth: The Energy Productivity Opportunity, offering a new fact base and policy options to curb energy demand, followed by real-time responses and feedback from experts in both the policy and corporate sectors.

No matter what your position is on global warming and climate change, there is no question that efficiency is a key component of reducing energy consumption that benefits everybody. No dogma or ideology needed.

I really wish I could be in DC for this conference. This is the kind of good stuff that I really miss by not living in DC. And it is free as well.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A plan for congressional Democrats on Iraq funding

President Bush wants a "clean bill" for funding ongoing operations in Iraq, but so many Democrats simply do not want to pass such a bill even though many of them know they need to. What should the Democrats do?

Easy. This is a basic math problem. They need to do the political calculus and figure out how to give President Bush all the rope he wants while also giving him a minimum of approval for what he wants to do with that rope.

One possibility would be to give him a virtual blank check to spend another $50 billion or so through October, with absolutely no restrictions or even any mention of Iraq, knowing full well that he will spend it on Iraq. In fact, the bill could "recommend" that the money be spend on social programs, energy subsidies for lower-income families, alternative energy research, etc., and even "strongly recommend" that the money not be spent funding operations in Iraq, but not placing any actual restrictions on President Bush. A bill in such a form will have these qualities:

  1. Democrats will have given President Bush exactly what he wanted: funding with no strings attached
  2. Diehard antiwar activists will be able to point to language strongly opposing the war
  3. Centrists will be able to say they did "the responsible thing"
  4. The military will have until October to prove that the surge really is gaining traction
  5. Democrats will have offered a very clear statement of their priorities
  6. There is a deadline, of sorts, implied by the bill
  7. A veto-proof majority of Congress can, albeit grudgingly, vote for this bill
  8. President Bush can't reasonably expect to get a better compromise than this
  9. The Democrats, even the diehard antiwar activists, can't reasonably expect to get a better compromise out of the centrists who really do need to show some degree of support for "the troops" if the Democrats want to win the presidency in 2008
  10. Nobody really "wins"; everybody "loses" equally

All sides of the debate can and should spend the next month trumpeting their objections to the compromises that their opponents want them to make, but as June is about to turn into July, this is a bill that all sides can come to agree is the only compromise that can leave their opponents equally unhappy as themselves.

-- Jack Krupansky

Republicans implicitly giving the Iraq surge an October deadline

Although Republican congressional supporters of President Bush's troop surge in Iraq are equally adamant that no withdrawal deadline should be included in the funding legislation, already they appear to be implicitly giving the surge plan an October deadline. Just this morning I wrote a post in which I said that "I doubt that there are very many Republicans who would privately dispute the assertion that even they need to see some very significant results by October to warrant a continued firm commitment to remaining in Iraq." Now, just a few hours later I read on Bloomberg (this may have been on TV before I wrote my post, but I don't watch TV) that even the Republican House Minority Leader Boehner has an October deadline in mind for wanting to see results for the surge:

By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?

Anticipating a "Plan B" is a long ways from contemplating withdrawal of troops, but this does show how the level of commitment to Iraq is eroding even among diehard congressional supporters.

Besides, everybody knows that there is no "Plan B" and there won't be.

"Plan B" will be the code name for grudgingly shifting towards troop withdrawal while not explicitly saying it is troop withdrawal.

-- Jack Krupansky

What's going on with Antiwar Democrats?

There is an article in The New York Times by Michael Luo entitled "With New Clout, Antiwar Groups Push Democrats", but the article is less filling than the bold title promises. As far as I can tell, the antiwar Democrats have very little clout. It would be one thing if the Democrats had a veto-override majority that the antiwar politicians could make or break, but with the Democrats having only a slim simple majority, it is President Bush who has the so-called "clout", not the antiwar crowd, who are still left out in the cold, ranting in the streets. The goal here should not simply be to pass symbolic legislation which then gets vetoed by President Bush, but to actually have some real effect on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere. Sure, the Democrats are scoring a few political points, but with the emphasis on "few."

For all intents and purposes, this is a lameduck Congress and all of the speeches are essentially a preview of the coming presidential election. Unless the Democrats screw up or exhibit too much hubris, the Republicans do not have a ghost of a chance of retaining the presidency. The important thing here and now is not to cater to the far-left antiwar crowd, but to focus on deepening the support for the centrist positions which will capture the majority of voters in the general election.

The curious thing is that although I have little sympathy with the vision and strategy of the antiwar Democrats, I actually do share the overall goal of exiting from Iraq as expeditiously as possible and certainly within the next two years and certainly well underway by this time next year. I simply think it is a strategic mistake to focus on a specific timeline let alone a very short timeline. I think it makes perfect sense to say that President Bush has a relatively short period of time to show some significant results from his surge, like by October, and then having a vote as to whether to begin incremental withdrawal over a year, or as expeditiously as the the Iraqis can agree to. In other words, be practical, be pragmatists. The problem with the antiwar Democrats is that they are being as much ideologues as the Neoconservatives who got us into this mess. Just Say No to Ideologues.

As the article ends:

Mr. Matzzie, of MoveOn, was clear about the stakes in the coming weeks, saying his group was only getting started. He emphasized that the next emergency spending bill must be one "to end the war."

"This is act one of a three-act play," he said. "Act two will be the summer. During the summer, our job is to create a firestorm of opposition."

Which illustrates the Neoconservative-like idealistic hubris that somehow imagines that an unacheivable goal is already within their grasp. It is called "overreaching", and it is not a good thing. No matter how you slice the pie, the Democrats simply do not have the votes to override a veto on "the next emergency spending bill" if it once again attempts to apply a hard and short timeline for withdrawal.

In contrast, I think the approach of Hillary and Robert Byrd to schedule a "sunset" of the 2002 congressional authorization of force and to simply say that Preseident Bush must make his case again, makes a stronger case for trying to end our involvement in Iraq, simply because it gives the military another five months to show results. I doubt that there are very many Republicans who would privately dispute the assertion that even they need to see some very significant results by October to warrant a continued firm commitment to remaining in Iraq.

-- Jack Krupansky