Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another year without success in Iraq

By Carol Gee

It is really hard to want success for the opposition. It may be a little easier for me, however, because I am not an athlete nor a warrior. The best outcome in my opinion, is often not win/lose but win/win.

But it is really hard to visualize a successful outcome for the United States invasion of Iraq, now deemed the world's Number Two Failed State. Millions of us have struggled for a long time with this terrible dilemma.

What to do about "the opposition"? I asked in my blog last year. In mid June 2006 I posted "Who does not want success?" I spoke about Senator Joe Biden's view -- representing what I called "the loyal opposition at home." I want to quote a bit of what I was thinking back then:

"[Biden] hoped that President Bush can have success in Iraq." It would be crazy to want this misguided war to utterly fail. It is not disloyal to the Democratic Party to have a nonpartisan approach to foreign affairs, as does the good senator, for the most part. People of good will want success for the Iraqi people most of all.

In an interview... the Senator, like so many of us, made it clear that he does not wish to see the U.S. effort fail in Iraq.

Iraqis oppose each other -- I also spoke a year ago about "the loyal opposition in Iraq." In 2007 they are in what seems like a full civil war. I quote from my post again:

In order to feel any loyalty to the nation of Iraq, members of minorities, must have some share of the available power and resources...

[Biden] was not calling for a true partition, but for more autonomy and oil revenue sharing for each region. I may not agree with Senator Biden's proposal, but his point is well taken. Just as in the United States, religious or ethnic differences can separate the people of a nation. Poverty and lack of the basic necessities of food, shelter and safety can separate people here or in the Muslim world.

"Sharing power with the opposition," was the heading of the conclusion of last year's post. I quote it in full:

The Iraqi constitution is very new. It is yet to be modified to the satisfaction of all the people living in Iraq, so that power can be shared equitably by all. The U.S. constitution is very old, much modified, and also still vulnerable. If we are not very careful, the executive branch will have far too much power, and the original framers' careful separation of powers doctrine will be in shambles.

Loyal oppositions in both countries want their national administrations to be successful, but not too successful at gathering power only unto themselves. Utterly partisan leaders cannot have it both ways. There are terrible trade-offs with power grabs. In Iraq lots of people are dying. In the United States, lots of people have opted out of the political process in disgust. Will the 2006 election turnout be as equally disheartening as the other recent ones?

The war in Iraq will never be successful as visualized by our current president (OCP) -- The incursion was a mistake from the beginning. But the Democrats won the election in 2006! Surely we cannot be disheartened. But we are, because members of Congress have not acted on their election success. They have ceded power to the opposition. So what is the answer now?

There was never a merely military answer for Iraq. The military is a great institution when it sticks with what it does best, defend the United States against enemy attack. Iraq never attacked the U.S. We attacked Iraq -- Mistake Number One. But we cannot undo that now.

Iraq has its own answers, which it will discover or not. The U.S. military was never designed to facilitate such processes. (OCP) Bush definitely eschewed "nation building" during his campaign for president. And now that Iraq must rebuild politically from within its own opposed forces, we have kept the military in charge of supporting their efforts, rather than the State Department. That is Mistake Number Two. And we can and must undo that now.

Congress has the answer. Will it find it? The Executive Branch of government does not represent the American people. It has not served us, but itself. Nor has Congress, which actually does represent us but which has yet to answer as it must. Congress has to withdraw financial support from the military in Iraq, and increase support for diplomatic efforts to help Iraq succeed, if Iraq decides it wants to succeed. Democratic Congressional leaders are making Mistake Number Three. Democrats must not leave the leading to their loyal opponents, the Republicans. These leaders can and must undo their mistake soon.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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