If Bush turns running Iraq over to the Iraqi people in
July, will there be enough time for everything to go to hell
in a handbasket before the election? How many American lives
is it likely to cost in the mean time? And if John Kerry is
elected, do you think he will bring the troops home right
away? And if he does, will the Iraqis stop blowing things
up and shooting people?
I just don't see any good outcomes here, do you?
Twin Falls, ID
It is very hard to see any positive outcome to this, isn't
it? No matter how events unfold, this particular mess will
provide both parties with sticks for beating one another,
fairly or unfairly, while regardless of whose "fault" it is,
American service people and Iraqi civilians continue to suffer
Auntie doesn't feel very optimistic about it, either, Connie,
because I see two things that need to happen, and accomplishing
(or even seriously trying to accomplish) either would make
it harder to do the other one. The two things are:
1. Cleaning up the mess; and
2. Preventing more messes like this.
The first one is unlikely to happen because it's an election
year, and it is doubtful the Democratic Party will do the
things needed to accomplish the first, since it is to our
greater political advantage to concentrate on the second.
And the second is unlikely to happen because it would mean
the GOP having to take responsibility for some very bad leadership
decisions, and that would be political suicide in an election
Cleaning up the mess would require both parties to declare
a moratorium on using the issue of rebuilding Iraq for partisan
political ends. If they could do that, there could be some
meaningful discussions about long-term commitments to rebuilding
Iraq, and the resources the United States would have to put
into such an effort. And it might be easier for Mr. Bush's
administration to undertake sincere and meaningful negotiations
with the UN for help in Iraq, if they didn't have to worry
about the Democratic Party making political hay from such
an action. Auntie thinks this is very unlikely to happen,
due to the nature of partisan politics in America.
And unfortunately, even if they could negotiate a truce
with the Democrats, the GOP has backed itself thoroughly into
a corner by putting so many of its political eggs into the
basket held by xenophobic, rabidly UN-hating factions within
the Party. Any attempt on their part to sincerely engage the
UN and other member states in developing a real solution to
the mess puts them at risk of alienating these factions, which
have become critical elements in the GOP base.
It would take an act of great political courage and moral
conviction for the GOP leadership to do this, and an act of
supreme discipline and self-denial for the Democratic leadership
to make it possible. If only the positions were reversed!
Republicans have traditionally been a bit better at discipline
and self-denial, and Democrats have traditionally been more
willing to take risks in the name of moral conviction.
Of course, engaging the UN and other allied nations in helping
with the cleanup will not suffice, America would also have
to be prepared to make a considerable (and long-term) investment
of resources. When this investment is added to the investments
required to protect Americans from terrorism, and solve our
domestic economic problems, it would require a very special
kind of leadership to convince the American people to make
the sacrifices necessary for such investment.
That kind of leadership has always been rare, and it is
even more difficult to find in an era when such powerful communications
tools are available for each party to foster hatred for the
other party's leaders.
As far as preventing similar messes is concerned, we need
to analyze the errors, faulty judgment, and wishful thinking
that went into causing the mess in the first place. We need
to look at why our system of checks and balances did not prevent
it. If we could arrive at reliable answers to those questions,
we could look at whether the system was functioning improperly,
or just not designed to address such a dilemma. And we could
weigh the costs and benefits of fixing the system or changing
But while attempts to do all this can reasonably be interpreted
as partisan political haymaking, they will be ineffective,
and they won't have enough support from ordinary Americans
to succeed. So the best thing we can do is try to refrain
from extremist, partisan interpretations-from either end of
the spectrum-of the events as they unfold, support balanced,
non-partisan attempts to address the issues, and save our
partisan fervor for issues where it can be helpful, rather
than counter productive.
There are certainly plenty of those! Medicare funding, trade
incentives, tax policy, education-you name it, there's a legitimate
partisan case to be made in every example. And Auntie is biased
enough to think they all reflect pretty well on the Democratic
Party, too, though there are plenty of reasonable cases to
be made from the GOP side. So start asking candidates the
right questions, and don't forget to help get out the vote,
Connie! Thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!
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