Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraq, Goals and Credibility

I had read this morning and been thinking about how to reply to this excellent post by Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left on the proper Iraq strategy for the Democrats in Congress. My first attempt today was my post on credibility and the costs of credibility, but I want to fully engage the post and the very simple realization that is the kernel of truth that the national discourse is ignoring.

BTD makes a very simple point from which his entire argument springs: To end the war in Iraq the Democrats need to do absolutely nothing on the appropriations process. There will be costs to this, but not passing any supplemental appropriations bills, or passing month to month bills all containing a firm deadline and requirement for 99.7% withdrawal [US Marines to guard the embassy allowed] would do this. Let me quote him for a bit:

I ask for three things: First, announce NOW that the Democratic Congress will NOT fund the Iraq Debacle after a date certain. You pick the date. Whatever works politically. If October 2007 is the date Dems can agree to, then let it be then. If March 2008, then let that be the date; Second, spend the year reminding the President and the American People every day that Democrats will not fund the war past the date certain; Third, do NOT fund the Iraq Debacle PAST the date certain......

But but but, defund the whole government? Defund the whole military? What if Bush does not pull out the troops? First, no, not defund the government, defund the Iraq Debacle. If the Republicans choose to shut down government in order to force the continuation of the Iraq Debacle, do not give in. Fight the political fight. We'll win. Second, defund the military? See answer to number one. Third, well, if you tell the American People what is coming for a year, and that Bush is on notice, that i t will be Bush abandoning the troops in Iraq, we can win that political battle too.

If the Senate and the House can get on the same page, and pass monthly or quarterly continuing resolutions with a hard deadline and stay on the frame that they are fulfilling their promises to end the war and George W. Bush is a petulant loser, this strategy has great potential of being extremely successful on policy and political grounds.

The policy grounds are clear, the US military will have to withdraw if they do not have the funds to continue operations. Secondly, they will be getting significant warning to start planning for this withdrawal to do so in an orderly fashion. It will not embolden anyone to commit more attacks against US forces. Instead, there is a decent probability that a some major groups involved in the Sunni Arab insurgency are willing to let the US get out reasonably unmolested as that is one of their dominant political goals. Other groups that are inclined to attack US forces would have an incentive to minimize their operations against US forces in a drawdown period as everyone would be jockeying for final position on an all-out civil war and wasting strength and lives against retreating US columns would be counter-productive.

Politically, these steps and framework should let the Democrats hang Iraq around every Republican who sticks with George W. Bush while neutralizing most critiques that the Democrats are endangering US troops. The Democrats would be making long lead time promises and following through on them to end a very unpopular war. That is a hard position to attack, especially when the figurehead of the attack is someone as distrusted as George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. Finally, this series of moves should bury the successful GOP frame that Democrats can not follow their own word.

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