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Archive for the ‘War on Terror’ Category

Though she has come under much criticism from the White House for her visit to Syria this week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D, San Francisco) has put more pressure on Syria than the current administration has. She has gone face-to-face with the President of Syria and confronted him about his support of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. She has even gone to Saudi Arabia and questioned them on their refusal to allow women in politics.

While I’m not a fan of Pelosi, she has shown more international leadership in two days than President Bush has shown in seven years.

President Bush, who began isolating Syria when they refused to back his incursion into Iraq in 2003, has called the visit by Pelosi counter-productive. The President has often attempted to use the supposed “pressure” of diplomatic isolation during his time as President. He has refused to deal with Palestine, Syria, Iran, and North Korea. He has not seen much success:

– The Palestinians continue to refuse to recognize Israel, have moved closer to Iran and Syria, and the tensions between Israel and Palestinians continues to exist.
– North Korea tested a nuclear weapon.
– Iran continues its uranium enrichment program, continues to fund Hezbollah, and continues to help stir up fighting in Iraq.
– Syria has continued to fund Hezbollah and Hamas, and, during its isolation, drawn closer to Iran.

Back before World War II, the League of Nations was considered incredibly weak because one of the only forms of punishment it could incur was what was known as a “Diplomatic Sanction.” It was essentially regarded as a slap on the wrist, but it was all the League could do – part of the reason why the League was dissolved and the United Nations created in its stead.

Little has ever been accomplished by cutting off ties with a region. No progress was made with China until Nixon’s landmark visit in the 1970’s. Little progress was made with the USSR until the detente. Iran has been isolated since the 1970’s, and, by looks of it, that hasn’t worked.

How can you deal with a problem if you refuse to speak with those responsible. How can you broker peace if you refuse to speak with the other side?

In a political environment where the word “compromise” seems to have completely disappeared, the idea that we would not compromise in diplomacy seems inevitable. Our brusque attitude toward other countries, however, is hurting our global popularity. Our refusal to deal with potential threats to world security is being noticed by those in other countries, and as our popularity declines, another’s rises.

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President Bush continues to prod Democratic leaders in Congress, calling on them to pass the emergency spending bill that has drawn so much attention in the news – mostly due to the withdrawal timetables added onto it.

However, along with his calls for them to pass the bill as soon as possible, the President has also stated that if any bill comes to his desk with a withdrawal timetable on it, he will veto it – which would further prolong the process.

Due to the narrow margin by which both bills were passed in the House and Senate, it is highly unlikely that any bill with a withdrawal deadline could overcome a presidential veto, but, in the end, it’s more about the message Congressional Democrats are trying to send to the President.

Just the mere fact that they were able to pass the bills with timetables attached – even among defections from their own party – was a big step, but just one step. The Democrats need to pass the spending bill, timetable or not, and knowing that the President will veto the bill, it will be interesting how they respond when he does. A deal will have to be brokered, seeing as the bill needs to be passed, but cannot be with a timetable attached.

Vice President Cheney echoed President Bush’s sentiments, calling for the Democrats to pass the spending bill, or the Pentagon would start feeling the “financial pinch,” as the Times puts it.

In response to this, Senator Reid (D, Nevada), the Senate Majority Leader, stated that he would attempt to pass Senator Feingold’s (D, Wisconsin) bill which calls for an immediate financial cut-off for all troops in Iraq. Such a measure would most likely not pass in the Senate, and if it did, would also be immediately vetoed by the President, so Senator Reid’s remarks were, in reality, empty threats.

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John McCain and a congressional delegation visited Iraq recently, and commented on the relative peacefulness and safety of Baghdad’s largest marketplace.

The Iraqis had other things to say.

Most of the Iraqis in the market pointed out that the relative safety had more to do with the increased security for the Congressmen (Sharpshooters on the rooftops, attack helicopters, Humvees, shut-off vehicle access, etc.) rather than the actual state of affairs in the marketplace. They referenced recent attacks that have killed dozens of people – mostly women and children – in the marketplace.

Senator McCain, running for President in 2008, has staunchly supported the Iraq War and has voted against attempts in Congress to call for a troop withdrawal. While a longtime fan of McCain, I’m disappointed in his apparent disregard for the opinions of the Iraqis in the marketplace, as well as his misleading statements – statements which could be construed as an attempt to justify his own position on the war.

While I agree with McCain that withdrawing is not a good plan, I also think that misrepresenting the situation is dishonest and manipulative.

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Today the Senate passed a $97 billion appropriations bill for the U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with a stipulation that U.S. troops must begin withdrawing within 120 days after the passing of the bill, with the goal of complete redeployment by the end of March 2008. The House of Representatives has a similar bill that calls for all troops to be removed by September 2008. These bills will have to be reconciled, but the more pressing issue is the imminent presidential veto.

President Bush has stated numerous times that any spending bill calling for a withdrawal would be vetoed, and, as of right now, he appears to be sticking to his guns.

The bill passed by a vote of 51-47, with Michael Enzi (R, Wyoming) and Tim Johnson (D, South Dakota) again not voting.

While it is an accomplishment for the new Democratic Congress, the Democrats will probably not be able to sway the necessary 15 or so more Senators they will need for the 2/3 majority required to overcome the President’s veto.

For my opinion on this, see my previous post.

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Democrats in the House and Senate voted to keep a troop withdrawal timetable in the Iraq appropriations bill (a bill allowing an additional $122 billion in war funds) by razor thin majors.

The motion (which, to clarify, did not pass the bill, merely kept a clause in the bill calling for a timetable) passed 50-48 in the Senate, with Mike Enzi (R, Wyoming) and Tim Johnson (D, South Dakota) not voting because they were absent. A similar motion (calling for troops to be recalled by September ’08) passed in the House by a margin of 218-212.

While Senator Kennedy (D, Massachussetts) called the votes “momentous,” in reality, they showed just how divided Congress still is on the matter of Iraq, and President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that contains a timetable for withdrawal. Given that the vote was so close, it’s highly unlikely that the Democrats will be able to muster the 2/3 majority needed to overcome a Presidential veto.

Both Democrats and Republicans defected from their party lines, and even moderate Republicans were extremely worried about setting a concrete timetable for withdrawal. They had this to say:

“This bill should be named the Date Certain for Surrender Act. A second-year cadet at West Point could tell you that if you announce when the end will be, it’s a recipe for defeat. We cannot give up just as we’re starting to turn things around in Iraq.”
John McCain (R, Arizona)

“I don’t think it’s wise to have an abrupt withdrawal from Iraq. This doesn’t mean I support an unending commitment of our troops in Iraq. I don’t.”
Susan Collins (R, Maine)

“It would be the bugle of retreat. It would be echoed and repeated through every minaret in Iraq: the coalition forces have decided to take the first step backwards. We cannot send that message. Not at this time.”
John W. Warner (R, Virginia)

While I consider myself liberal-moderate, I also find myself siding more with the Republicans on this issue. Iraq is not going to solve itself. Yes, we’ve created a terrorist recruitment ground there. Yes, we’ve lost thousands of troops.

Will pulling out fix those things? Well, it will end the casualty rate, but it will not end the terrorist presence, stem their ability to recruit, or help stabilize the Middle East in any way. As I’ve stated in a previous post, leaving Iraq will, beyond being a serious moral blow to our military and our country, create the kind of chaotic situation in which terrorism thrives.

We’ve seen this kind of example throughout history, a failed democratic project that slips into chaos. What does it lead to? There are two very famous examples. Two men rose to power and changed history: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Other governments that have arisen from a chaotic state are usually despotic in nature: European feudal governments after the Viking invasions in the 9th and 10th century, Japan after Commodore Perry forcefully opened the country to trade, China and Russia after their early 20th century revolutions, Hitler and Mussolini, Tito in Yugoslavia, the Taliban, the list goes on.

Doe we want to be responsible for creating another despotic state in the Middle East? Wasn’t the goal to create a model democracy?

I’m not saying that Iraq is going well. Or that the current course will lead to victory if given enough time. However, pulling the troops out IS NOT THE ANSWER.

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The New York Times wrote today about Barack Obama’s consistent stance opposing the Iraq War. Some consider it to be a boost for his campaign, as he doesn’t have to worry about defending or explaining previous votes on the war (a la John Kerry in 2004). Others criticize Obama, saying that he didn’t begin speaking up about the war or offering any solutions until after he announced his presidential campaign. Obama has defended himself by stating that he wished to “lay low” in the first year of his freshman term as a U.S. Senator.

Obama’s plan for Iraq rests mainly on hitting different “benchmarks” for progress. He also calls for a phased withdrawal, and would like to see U.S. troops gone by March 2008. In addition, his plan does not eliminate a potential continued military presence in the region and does not eliminate the potential for further economic aid. A basic overview of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama’s Iraq plans can be viewed here.

It seems that the Democrats’ are trying their very best not to alienate the anti-war vote that gave them control of Congress for the first time in over a decade. However, it appears to me that, in doing so, they are ignoring some of the long-term problems that could arise.

The entire purpose of the Iraq enterprise was 1) remove Saddam and 2) establish a stable democracy in the geographic center of the Middle East. Well, we accomplished #1, and its quite obvious to everyone that #2 still eludes us. Indeed, I never thought that forcing democracy upon Iraq was a good idea. Democracy does not have a strong history of success when it has been shoved down someone’s throat. However, I’m not sure that pulling out is the best answer.

President Bush’s troop surge, while somewhat controversial, should not be dismissed. Securing Baghdad is an important step toward stabilizing Iraq. If the capitol is not secure, than how can the country operate? It can’t. However, we won’t know if the President’s surge will work for a few months (the best estimate is about three to six). I hate to say that we need to “wait and see,” but that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to have multiple plans in place, including one if the surge succeeds and we stabilize Baghdad, and one if the surge fails, and if it fails, then a phased withdrawal would likely be the best (and only) option. I hope it does not come to that because that scenario has intense ramifications.

By pulling out, Iraq could very well break out into full-on civil war. The power vacuum involved with the lack of the U.S. presence would leave the door open for Iran (with its billions in oil money) to come in. Not to mention we would’ve blown hundreds of billions of dollars on a failed project in a region that’s disposition toward the U.S. is glacially-cold, at best.

I’m not a military or political expert, so I’m in no position to create a new plan for Iraq, but I do not think that simply pulling out is the answer.

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Senate Democrats are contemplating rewriting the 2002 authorization to go to war in Iraq. The new version would include rules on how U.S. troops can be used (helping defend borders, fighting al Qaeda, training Iraqis) and would call for the removal of U.S. troops not following those rules to be removed by March 2008.

The Iraq situation is a mess, and that’s an understatement. I was against the war in the beginning back in 2002/2003. I argued that the intelligence that Saddam had nuclear weapons seemed shaky, and that we hadn’t had clear intel since Desert Storm in the early 90’s. The idea that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 was ludicrous, as Osama bin Laden is on record as having approached the Saudis to see if they wanted his help in removing the “infidel” Saddam.

However, it has taken the U.S. government 3 to 4 years to reach the same conclusion, and that’s 4 years too late. We’re over there now, and we’ve got to clean up our own mess. If we leave now that’s like telling someone “You’ve got a serious mold and rot problem in your siding, we’re going to need to replace all of it with new siding,” then ripping off all their siding, realizing that its all fine, and saying “Whoops! Guess I was wrong!” and leaving them up sh-t’s creek.

This new resolution seems fine in theory, but 1) the Democrats will have to fight President Bush big time on this, as there is no way he’s going to allow them to pass it, and 2) does it really accomplish anything?

We’ve got serious problems in Iraq, but is this really going to do anything about them? Yes, it will, in theory, bring some of the troops home, but that’s in theory. President Bush could also, in theory, label all of the troops as assisting in border security, training Iraqis, or fighting al Qaeda. Aren’t they all “fighting al Qaeda” right now anyway?

Iraq isn’t going to fix itself, and only history will be able to tell whether or not it was a colossal mistake. Right now it looks more like a colossal mistake, but one that we’ve got to try to fix.

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