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November 14, 2007

Does The GOP Need Iraq?

I genuinely hope Joe Klein is right and Iraq's improvements are durable.  And contrary to Joe's implication, I don't think, politically, this is something for Democrats to fear.  The better Iraq is doing, the less of an issue it will be in the election.  The less of an issue it is in the election, the more issues like the health care crisis, the mortgage meltdown, inequality, and global warming will come to the fore.  Indeed, the less Iraq dominates the agenda, the more alternative foreign policy visions can emerge, and be tested, and become the new context for the discussion  All that is good for the Left.

Indeed, I occasionally believe that Republicans know that once American troops leave Iraq, the country's need for the Republican Party, at least temporarily, will cease.  The Iraq War has increasingly come to define the Republican party.  They've sacrificed almot everything else for it, from fiscal discipline to social conservatism (see the Giuliani campaign).  So long as troops remain in Iraq, the Republicans can at least argue that they need to finish the job they've begun, and that the Democrats lack sufficient commitment to victory.  End it, and you end their relevance, at least until they can reinvent themselves as the party of closed borders.  My sense is that, consciously or unconsciously, some of the GOP knows this, and it underpins their unwillingness to even begin drawing the conflict to a close.  At this point, the end of the war would be existentially unmooring for the Party.

November 14, 2007 in Iraq | Permalink


"The better Iraq is doing, the less of an issue it will be in the election."

Not necessarily. The better Iraq is doing, the more difficult will it be for republicans to deny the requests for massive withdrawal. And, let's face it, the right wingers simply don't want to withdraw, because they desperately want to keep Iraq as a base for further military adventures.

Posted by: Gray | Nov 14, 2007 11:34:31 AM

Of course, Pakistan may have become a brand-new hairball by next November.

Posted by: TheRadicalModerate | Nov 14, 2007 11:53:24 AM

this war isn"t over by a long shot.

Posted by: della Rovere | Nov 14, 2007 11:59:28 AM

After the US lost in Vietnam, the Republicans successfully argued that the loss was caused by a lack of will. This, plus Jimmy Carter, gave the Republicans an issue for 30 years.

I'm pretty sure this would happen in any country that loses a limited war, but maybe someone here has some examples from other countries. Did France's loss in Indochina lead them to pursue a different policy in Algeria? I'd have to brush up on my French history, but didn't the right-wing De Gaulle come to power towards the end of the war in Algeria?

Posted by: stm177 | Nov 14, 2007 12:01:13 PM

Feeling Panglossian today, eh? If the Iraq is an unmitigated disaster in November 2008, that fact will be very, very good for D's and very, very bad for R's. If the war has instead turned out well or at least ok ("well" is hard to imagine) then the war turns neutral or possibly even good for the R's. And people tend to care about war.

Posted by: ostap | Nov 14, 2007 12:08:28 PM

stm, the fact that the Democratic party STARTED the vietnam war and then tore itself up over it is what damaged the party. Sure, conservatives talk about it endlessly, but they would never have supported us anyway. Most of the rest of the damage was caused by the fact that we have never since had a truly united party.

We are also now no longer a nation made up by a large number of veterans. The world war II generation is nearly dead, and there isn't any sense among older people that young people are shirking a responsibility they met with stoic reservation. That was a big part of the resentment towards the anti-war movement in those days, and it's completely missing now. In 20 years, it is unlikely that people will still be talking about Iraq the way they still talk about Vietnam now.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 14, 2007 12:18:15 PM

"If the war has instead turned out well or at least ok ("well" is hard to imagine) then the war turns neutral or possibly even good for the R's."

You didn't get the point: Dem candidates are copying successful republican strategies this season, and so their new, plagiarised talking point is: 'Whatever the outcome, it's great for the Dems!'

Posted by: Gray | Nov 14, 2007 12:44:41 PM

"We are also now no longer a nation made up by a large number of veterans."

Sry, souly, but in the reports about homeless vets it was said that about 11% of the population are veterans. Not exactly a small number.

Posted by: Gray | Nov 14, 2007 12:46:31 PM

First of all, turning to Joe Klein for an assessment of Iraq's political and social stability is like asking Britney Spears to read an MRI. Second of all, calling the escalation a "success" because violence is apparent down in Baghdad is perverse, given (a) the confounding factor of successful ethnic cleansing; and (b) that the objective was supposedly a political reconciliation which has made no progress at all. It's depressing that you and other pundits are getting bored enough by Iraq not to care that the place is totally screwed, and that the "surge" was a total failure at reversing that descent (not surprising, since its only real point was as a domestic political strategy). But I can tell you one thing. You'll perk your head up again when one of the million+ Iraqi refugees in Syria blows up a U.S. embassy, sometime during the administration of Clinton 44.

Posted by: Aaron | Nov 14, 2007 12:54:55 PM

Good points, Aaron, but the problem is, as long as the media doesn't truthfully report about the real situation in Iraq, the republicans will be able to sell the surge as a success story...

Posted by: Gray | Nov 14, 2007 12:57:56 PM

Murtha's comments accusing our soldiers of being killers, all the Democrats saying the war was lost...oh I assure you that you will be hearing about Iraq for decades if it stabilizes and a semi tolerable democracy develops. If come election time Iraq is peaceful, by Middle East standards, every sound bite of Democrats demanding we pull out immediately because they care about our soldiers will be replayed for the electorate to remember how wrong, once again, liberal policy was. It will hurt democrats on the scale of costing you both houses. Majority of the public is ignorant about the truth, they only know what the MSM tells them, that’s why you see such huge swings in support for such major issues as attacking a country. Once the public finds out how well things ended up, Ds will be held accountable at the polls. Argue all you want; only time will tell. Save this post for next year and see who was right.

Why when I listen to Liberals in the states their assessment of Iraq is 180 degrees from the soldiers serving there? The soldiers say we are making progress on political reconciliation, i.e. they are sitting in meetings between Shia and Sunni reconciling yet Aaron says nothing has happened? The military blogs think the surge has been a huge success, do you know something the else of us are unaware of?

Posted by: Nate O | Nov 14, 2007 1:16:10 PM

I think it's politically naive to assume that a major turn-around in Iraq would be of no advantage to the Republicans. If we see some steps towards political reconciliation, coupled with the success the surge has had in dampening violence, the Republicans will shout this from the roof-tops as both a demonstration of their superior moral steel and as evidence that they were right along. I imagine that this would be sufficiently compelling to a good number of voters, especially when deployed against the more vocal critics of the war on the Dem side. Just a hunch.

Posted by: sean | Nov 14, 2007 1:20:24 PM

You know what's really funny? As this article makes clear, any vaunted "success" of Bush's escalation is thanks to none other than Muqtada al-Sadr, who decided that it was just as well to let the Americans disarm Sunni militias while ethnic cleansing in Baghdad proceeds (now at 75%). You know, sit back and we'll do all the work. So basically, the electoral fortunes of Nate O. and his brethren are dependent on a fundamentalist Shiite warlord who expects continued progress. Better keep him happy, guys.

Semi-tolerable democracy! Major turn-around! This discussion manages somehow to be inane and insane simultaneously.

Posted by: Aaron | Nov 14, 2007 1:30:34 PM

Snappy little dog nibbles, Gray, but until Republicants like you realize that their nifty little tricks have run their course, they will continue to sink in relevance. ;>

Posted by: Conrad's Ghost | Nov 14, 2007 1:35:27 PM

Oh my gosh, I can hardly believe Klien's endless drivel.

Yes,what about those nasty anti-war folk that Klein mentions in his Rove styled "anti-war" folk = MoveOn.org radicals, but this is exactly where you know for sure that Klein, with intent to do so, enters the realm of propaganda because this is NOT his opinion, being that it's certainly completely void of facts SINCE 67% of Americans want out of Iraq now. AND according to the latest Iowa polls via a link a TMP, 53% of Iowa Republicans want to leave Iraq within the next 6 months, while only 20 something percent of Repubs in Iowa want to stay in Iraq.

The refusal of the antiwar movement--or some sections of it--to recognize these developments isn't helping its credibility.

If I were Klein, I don't he should be worried about anyone credibility but his own.

There must have been an era when TIME magazine wouldn't dream of entertained propagandist for lack of professionalism, but with Klein, his ethics are extremely questionable. This man is selling an agenda, that is void of any desire to inform the public, and it is extemely obvious that Klein is doing this.

Americans are far more concerned with the monolithic cost of the war, the instability of our military to continue to fight it, and the vast corruption going on over there.

If Klein wanted real issues to address, perhaps he could go do some research, but that would require honest work, and so it seem, Time's editors don't require any of that.

Posted by: Me_again | Nov 14, 2007 1:50:42 PM

"Snappy little dog nibbles, Gray, but until Republicants like you realize that their nifty little tricks have run their course, they will continue to sink in relevance. ;>"

Uh, fellow dog, you're barking at the wrong tree!

Posted by: Gray | Nov 14, 2007 1:54:13 PM

The war is already over for most Americans - most have long ago decided that it was a bad idea and that the Bush administration are a bunch of seriously fucked up liars. There is never going to be a bright shining happy ending to this story, least likely of all before election day.
If gasoline is still around $3 a gallon, the R's will get pounded at the polls. If heating oil is again up by 40% next winter (and it will be), the R's are gonna get pounded at the polls. If doctor visits and medicine are still roaring up in costs (and they will be) R's are gonna get pounded hard, from behind, without lube, at the polls. Are the R's totally responsible for all of these domestic ills? Who can say for sure. It doesn't matter. George W. Bush and his fans are the face of the Republican Party and they own it. They will still be saying next winter that the war is going great (I saw it on a military blog! Honest!), that oil companies are wonderful, that healthcare is perfect and we can't screw with it. That's all they ever have to say. Voters will look for whatever alternative to this that is available, even if it is HRC.

Posted by: chowchowchow | Nov 14, 2007 1:56:57 PM

Gray, I'm not saying we don't have veterans, but no other generation was mobilized to the degree of the WW2 generation. At the time of the vietnam war, the WW2 generation made up a very substantial portion of the voting public. We have Veterans now, but they don't make up anywhere near a portion of their generation as those who fought in WW2 did. Perhaps I should have been clearer, and said war veterans.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 14, 2007 2:55:10 PM

I really don't think Gray is a Republican...

I know we all assume at this point that everyone who thinks we're being overly optimistic is a concern troll, but sometimes they really are just concerned. I don't think this is going to end up like Vietnam, I don't think it truly impacts a large enough portion of the population to, but that doesn't mean Gray is just trying to fake us out.

As for the war turning around, I don't think it will. It might get a little better, it might not. But it will never end until we leave. No power in the history of the world has ever defeated a guerrilla movement overseas. There are very real reasons for that, and they haven't gone away with our level of technology. Unless you're willing to murder an entire country and likely set the table for a third world war, there is no way to 'win'. To the elite, winning is staying so we have access to Iraqs recourses and we can continue funneling money into their coffers. This will not continue indefinitely, as at some point someone will be opportunistic and power hungry enough to end the war above even elite opinion. Therefore we can not 'win'.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 14, 2007 3:03:17 PM

Does The GOP Need Iraq?

Of course they do, that's why a number of elements in the Bush administration sat around a table with the joint Chiefs, and said nothing, gave no orders, after they received actionable intelligence from our intelligence people in Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the mountains of Tora Bora in 2001. No conspiracy necessary, all they had to do was wait and take no action until bin Laden made his escape. At that point their plans for Iraq were already well underway, and they knew that if they capture or kill bin Laden, their reasoning for invading Iraq would come under much greater scrutiny by the Congress and the media, so they just sat on their hands. The relationship between Al Qaeda, the the Islamic fundamentalists and the conservative Republicans is symbiotic. Neither factions agenda can continue to grow and prosper, without the other. And I imagine that the top leaders in these camps have realized that they need this war, as a matter of political survival.

The gains which have been made in Iraq are a direct result of buying off tribal leaders and insurgents who were killing Americans just months ago. The American commanders saw how offering Iraqi citizens money for turning in insurgents was paying off, so they just broadened that approach to paying off the leadership with much larger sums. As long as the money keeps flowing from the US and Saudi Arabia, these various factions will remain our allies, and continue helping to tamp down the chaos in Iraq -- as long as the money keeps flowing.

But what the Bush administration has undertaken is little more than a capitulation, the equivalent of paying terrorists to stop attacking you, a tactic that historically has proven counterproductive in the long term, whenever it's been undertaken in the past. In light of their military and political failures the Bush administration's new policy in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan basically amounts to a divide and conquer strategy that looks good in the beginning, but the moment these various tribal and insurgent leaders realize that it's no longer in their best interests to ally themselves with the US, they will turn on us, and our military people in the field will be back to square one. The "You Can't Beat Them, Buy Them off" strategy is a temporary stopgap whose aim is to give the Republican party some breathing space before the elections, and it's working.

Now all the Republicans need is another major terrorist attack within the United States, to rampant fear, and give them the opportunity to play the blame game, and scapegoat the Democrats for blocking George W. Bush's executive power grab. Of course it won't matter that the Democratic Congress has done nothing to rein in this renegade president, all that will matter is the perception that the Democrats are standing in the way of this president "protecting us", that and the generation of sufficient fear within the US populace could actually offer the Republicans an opportunity to win a presidential election which at this point looks like a lock for the Democrats. I don't see any other way that the Republicans can avoid watching the Democrats win back the presidency in a landslide.

The Bush administration has publicly stated, that they are aware of Al Qaeda cells operating with in the United States. So I imagine that when one of these cells carries out a terrorist attack, they will claim that they were prevented from taking action by that pesky Constitution. I wonder what it will take for this president to decide that it's time to suspend our Constitution, just as Musharraf has in Pakistan, and tell us that it's been done for the sake of the safety and security of our nation, and for the Republican Party to begin making arguments in support of such a move. Perhaps we won't have to worry about the election at all, it will be postponed indefinitely, or perhaps we will have one but for security reasons only Republicans will be allowed to vote, since it will have been determined by the president at that point that the Democratic Party has been infiltrated by insurgents and terrorists. :-)

Posted by: Aaron B Brown | Nov 14, 2007 3:14:20 PM

Aaron, I doubt Bush will pull a Musharaf. The National guard would barely be able to pacify the capitals of every state. The reserves and the military is in Iraq. Our police forces are a joke. Our country has more guns than people, and the knowledge required to make explosive devices is wide spread. Even under ideal circumstances, we do not have enough combined police and defense forces to pacify a nation of 300 million people, and with a land mass greater than all of Europe. Any attempt at martial law would likely devolve into an economically devastating guerrilla civil war at this point, and the corporate masters of the Republican party will see the most lucrative market in the world turn hotbed of terrorism and assassination. To them, money is king. I doubt they would be stupid enough to kill their cash cow.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 14, 2007 3:39:04 PM

Aaron, Osama ran around the world for 8 years while Clinton was president, first WTC in 93? Cole? Somolia? Doesn't that add the Democratic Party to your symbiotic orgy?

Posted by: Nate O | Nov 14, 2007 4:06:45 PM

This analysis is correct. Right now the GOP has nothing but the war, xenophobia and homophobia. I'm not sure America needs a Party that stands for these things and little else. They can say they stand for cutting government, but then there's the pesky little problem of their spending spree from 2000 to 2006.

Posted by: Brendan | Nov 14, 2007 5:20:05 PM

First an Iraq where people can enjoy basic freedoms such as we do here is good for the world and good for america no matter what political party gains, second the redsitribution of Iraq's oil wealth through the increases payroll by the Iraqi government is actualy turning Iraq into one of the more progressive economies in the region, (The Iraqi government still has 3.7 million on the payroll and is the largest employer in the country, yeah I am sure there are some ghost employees but not that many). All of these things plus the rebirth of the marsh arabs, the opening of the Shia pilgramage routes, and the defeat of Al Qaeda in the heart of the middle east are benefit for all us. Its clear the elected Iraqi government will survive and majoritarian rule has come to Mesopatamia, how well the country will hold together is another question and many who oppose this war are right to question how close are the ties that bind Iraq. That will be an issue Iraqi's will have define amongst themselves, until then we can help them keep the terrorists and criminals in check.

Posted by: robert verdi | Nov 14, 2007 5:27:22 PM

The war can be a HUGE repub issue if it goes well. America is oppossed to this war because we are LOSING, Americans are not generally anti-war, Americans are anti-Losing (Panama, Grenada, Gulf war 1, and the initial months of Gulf War 2 enjoyed a lot of support). If the war is preceived and/or can be sold as a victory of some sort, Repub's take all credit and will dump on us dems.

Posted by: Wallace | Nov 14, 2007 5:49:57 PM

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