Sunday, May 06, 2007

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


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