Iraq: A Failure of Democratic Leadership

By Big Tent Democrat

Throughout 2007, I urged Democrats to adopt a confrontational strategy with the Bush Administration and Republicans on Iraq. I believed such a strategy was not only the right thing to do, it was the politically smart thing to do. But Democrats failed time after time, capitulating to every Bush demand. Two notable Democrats in the Senate fought against these capitulations - Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd. The rest, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, were notably lacking in leadership.

Not surprisingly, this lack of leadership has been seized upon by John McCain. Chris Bowers writes:

[N]ow McCain is pushing both sides of the blurring strategy, using surrogate James Baker to argue that even those in favor of withdrawal plan to leave troops in Iraq for a long time. . . . So, McCain wants to end the war, but to do so with "honor." Also, he is in favor of a timetable, but like everyone calling for Iraq withdrawal, including Barack Obama, he knows that American troops will stay in Iraq for "a long time to come."

And so, we arrive at the full-blown Iraq Blurring Strategy from John McCain. No one wants to end the war more than he does. In fact, he is in favor of withdrawal. However, everyone who favors withdrawal, like Barack Obama, also wants to leave large numbers of residual forces in Iraq.


Chris chooses to focus on his pet issue, residual forces in 2009. I think he misses what the failure was - to call Bush to heel and use Congress' Constitutional funding power by NOT funding the Iraq Debacle. Indeed, Chris' focus ignores that even now, Obama's statement on Al Qaida being or not being in Iraq has been seized upon by McCain and Republicans. It would be outright folly to promise to have no residual troops to fight Al Qaida in Iraq. But promising and fighting to not have American troops fighting in the Iraqi Shia-Sunni civil war in 2007 would have been right AND paid political dividends now and in November 2008. The chance of a realigning election was lost by Democratic capitulation on Iraq in 2007. Yet again, Democrats failed to stand up for what they professed to believe in and it has cost them politically.

< Chicago Crime Update: No Appeal Bond for Conrad Black, Jury Will See Photos of Rezko's House | A Little Fundraising Of Our Own >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    I give you a lot of credit (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:45:37 PM EST
    for trying, but to no avail.  

    Flailing now about residual troops (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:50:49 PM EST
    as Chris does is to completely misunderstand what happened. Iraq is a favorable issue for Democrats, but no longer the REALIGNING issue it should be.  

    It seems both our Primary candidates (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:52:26 PM EST
    are afraid of McCain's war on terror credentials.

    So it seems (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:53:43 PM EST
    They have acted like this for more than  year.

    Hillary Clinton's statements (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:54:55 PM EST
    at the Petraeus hrgs. were right on the mark; but now?

    Statements mean nothing (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:00:41 PM EST
    in that context. NOT funding should hve been the statement.

    Democrats blurred themselves on Iraq.


    Chris Dodd for Senate Majority (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:02:45 PM EST

    Sure? (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:04:29 PM EST
    Why not? NOt a big thing to me. Reid is a vessel, not the ringleader.

    The Dems had two big potential "leaders" in the Senate. Their names were Obama and Clinton.


    What An Opportunity (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by squeaky on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:52:15 PM EST
    For Obama/Clinton to fully withdraw within the first year of Demo rule.

    Fully withdraw (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:54:14 PM EST
    means what? From the theater? Or from the civil war?

    From The Theater (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by squeaky on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:11:53 PM EST
    And the civil war. Once we are out, we will be in a position to negotiate about embassies and troops.

    Did you see this article (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:59:56 PM EST
    about Basra after the British forces left?


    Hard to see any point in hanging around in Iraq.  Now, of course, the Turkish government is taking matters into its own hands and we are telling them that is not permissible.


    Miss my point (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:02:22 PM EST
    Withdrawing from Basra meant the British no longer kept the peace between Shia and Sunni.

    Staying in Iraq to fight Al Qaida is a perfectly defensible policy, not to mention good politics.

    Change the MISSION. No longer be the policeman of the Iraq civil war.


    We cannot fight Iraq's battles (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Dadler on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:32:28 PM EST
    Whoever we claim MUST be defeated, Iraqis must do it for themselves.  Not us, not the Brits, no one but Iraqis.  Al Qeada in Iraq is a tiny part of the "insurgency", and an entirely manufactured on on our part -- we WANTED to them there.  Our wretchedness in Iraq cannot be cleansed by the rationalizations that AQ is somehow the devil only WE can defeat.  Al Sadr's cease fire IS the entire reason there is any measure of decreased violence in most of Iraq these days.  He is biding his time.  We are continuing to swallow stupid pills.

    Out of the civil war, out of the theatre, out, out, out.  Let other superpowers drag themselves down and bankrupt themselves with foreign wars of choice.  Oh wait, that's right, we're the only ones dumb enough to do that these days.

    Our delusions continue unabated, it seems.  

    The only good politics in figthing AQ in Iraq are the politics of percetpion, which, ultimately, seek to somehow lessen the reality of our mass murder and unforgivable malevolence.

    The Shia and the Sunnis have a beef to settle, and we are not going to help them.  We are incapable of it.  


    Al Sadr and the fact... (none / 0) (#17)
    by Dadler on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:34:37 PM EST
    ...that the ethnic cleansing we enabled and aided has largely been accomplished.

    Ah, a subtle shift. I did miss it. (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:05:29 PM EST
    To a degree, we're lucky (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by andgarden on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:43:12 PM EST
    that the nominee is McCain, and not Romney. Dems now own this war, but McCain owns it far more than Hillary or Barack.

    You say Iraq won't be a realigning issue, and I agree, but I have serious doubts about whether it ever could have been.

    war as a realigning issue? (none / 0) (#19)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:58:06 PM EST
    andgarden, your comment: "I have serious doubts about whether it ever could have been."
    Can you say a bit more about that?

    Question (none / 0) (#14)
    by Saul on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:10:54 PM EST
    Of the few senators that originally did NOT vote for the Iraq resolution how many of those if any stayed true to their cause and never voted  once for any of the supplemental spending bills for Iraq?

    maybe it's time to push the argument (none / 0) (#20)
    by RalphB on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 11:17:49 PM EST
    that McCain is completely wrong and our presence is what is keeping the Iraqis from killing off Al Qaeda in Iraq.  do we really think the Iraqis want a group of Syrian, Saudi, etc terrorists killing people indiscriminately in their country?  i doubt it.

    couldn't the argument be made that if we withdraw, the Iraqi insurgents will turn on Al Qaeda since they don't have the occupation to pull them together?  this may also be a correct argument.

    the problem with it is the civil war between Sunnis and Shia may also make Al Qaeda an ally of the Sunnis.  if this is true?

    unfortunately, our candidates are a bit timid.

    I believe you may be right... (none / 0) (#21)
    by RiderOnTheStorm on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:07:33 AM EST
    ...that US forces are only getting in the way.

    The Kurds don't want AQ there.  The Shia don't want AQ there. Even the Sunnis don't want AQ there.  But as long as we're there, that presence provides a focal point for recruitment and attacks, and resources which are expended defending against those attacks can't be used elsewhere.

    It's possible that the Sunnis would want AQ as an ally in the civil war, but I don't see that as very likely. They're just as likely to kill Sunni as Shia, which makes them too unpredictable to be of much value.  And the price for their cooperation would be too high.

    We should withdraw every last soldier instantly -- there is no purpose to be served by remaining even another day.  If at some point it's determined that it's necessary to go after AQ camps, those should be pinpoint strikes launched from remote locations.  All we are doing by remaining (and by continuing to construct bases) is providing and building targets.


    It's so frustrating (none / 0) (#22)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:51:55 AM EST
    having skin in this game.  Many days your voice was my only friend in the wilderness.  Obama and Clinton did everything they could to make their situations as a candidate for CIC worse.  If either one of them or both of them had shown any leadership on defunding they could have changed the momentum and goal direction in Iraq and now they get to live with the consequences of another year dug in and "supporting" the troops in Iraq!  I feel not one shred of sympathy for either one of them.  Their lack of leadership extended the pain and suffering of others.  I didn't tell them to be leaders, they chose that for themselves and then they failed those who they lead miserably!  Leading us out of Iraq is going to hurt, it always was going to hurt to some degree but the longer we are dug in the more it is going to hurt us so get with the program.  And remember Clinton and Obama.......sometimes pain is just weakness leaving the body!

    Between a rock and a hard place (none / 0) (#23)
    by kenoshaMarge on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 08:20:20 AM EST
    I believe that Democrats thought themselves to be between a rock and a hard place about the war. I believe that most of the Democrats in Washington honestly do want to get out of Iraq. And to get out ASAP.

    But always, that nasty little self-centered voice in the back of their head was saying; "but the Republicans will call you names if you stand up and do what's right. And then, horror of horrors, you won't get elected. And then you won't get to represent the people that elected you by not doing what they elected you to do." Ergo, politics as usual.

    Come on Tracy, do you expect leadership that might cost them votes? Do you expect the deaths, injuries, misery and mutilation of fellow human beings to be as important to politicians as getting elected or re-elected?

    Pardon this cynical old bat but I've been watching this political dog and pony show for 40+ years and leadership, real leadership that says and does the right thing in spite of the real fear of not getting re-elected is beyond rare, it's dang near nonexistent.

    I share your pain, your disgust and your outrage.

    Guess we're kinda in a Donald Rumsfeld election kinda place, we have to vote for the candidates we have, not the candidate we wish we had.

    It would NOT cost the votes (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 08:28:16 AM EST
    It would garner them many many votes.

    I think you're right (none / 0) (#25)
    by kenoshaMarge on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:44:05 AM EST
    I just don't think they do. In spite of the victory in 2006 they went right back to capitulating as a tactic. Quite honestly I just don't get what they are thinking anymore. Are they somehow still afraid of the Big Bad Bush Wolf? He of the 19% approval rating?

    Could somebody splain it to me?


    They felt like they could afford (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 11:29:11 AM EST
    to not have to take the risks that came with being immediately decisive and vocal about ending Iraq and still win in 08.  Perhaps they can but as BTD points out Iraq is no longer the realignment opportunity it could have been or should have been if someone had stuck their neck out there just a little bit and hung out with 70% of America.  It would have taken extra energy and some strategy fending off the "you betray the troops" flunky blatherers but it could have been done and if done well it could have smoked the competition and McCain all at the same time but nah.......let's just piddle along and keep pointing our finger at Dubya whenever someone notices the mess around here.  He is the "decider" you know.