November 29, 2005

Armchair Presidenting

from - smijer

Well, Mark Warner succeeded in knocking some of the glow off of his golden-boy status as grassroots favorite for 2008, opining that no timeline is needed for an exit to Iraq.

Well, I'm increasingly of the opinion that a timeline is needed. Talk about that in a minute.

It was a dumb political move... alienating a lot of "the base", giving political cover to a President (and a future GOP nominee) who will no doubt use his words to show that he agrees with them that doing nothing and "staying the course" is the smart mode of action... making it that much easier to silence the debate over whether or how to leave Iraq... making it that much easier for a GOP nominee to campaign on a platform of continuing to screw up that country along with our own.

It was especially dumb, because he really didn't need to say anything at this point. He's an outgoing governor of VA, not an incoming president. He should be spending his time with advisors, crafting his foreign policy - not preaching it. Making a commitment to avoid timelines now does nothing more than close his own options. It isn't like the insurgency is just waiting to hear what Mark Warner says before they decide to set off another IED. It isn't as though the soldiers or policy makers care what he says right now. So, it was a very dumb thing to do. (The same would be true if he advocated the opposite opinion at this point, though I probably would have been too dumb to notice, and would not have cared enough to write a post about it.)

But Warner isn't a dumb guy. He won the hearts of a red state public without compromising blue ideals to do it. He moved the voters of VA to elect him governor, twice, and made it possible for another moderate liberal democrat to win the election following. That's not the work of a politically tone-deaf dummy. So, cut him a break, and give him a chance to learn from his mistakes. Let's not suck the oxygen from the 2008 primaries by multi-tiered litmus tests that can be failed over a single inept comment.

The timeline... The knee-jerk rightist reaction is that it will "embolden the enemy" and give them a strategic advantage, being able to make their plans around our timeline. Okay... Maybe...

On the other hand, it is undoubtedly the U.S. occupation that provides the most fuel for the insurgency at present. Might that fire find other tinder to burn when the occupation is gone? Sure it may. It isn't like there is no ethnic or religious strife in our new colony. But would a timeline not also give aid to the caue of peace there? I heard a comment from someone - I think it was an analyst or strategist type - on the radio the other day. He said something I hadn't thought of before. It was a comment to the effect that providing a timeline, or more generally, showing sincerity about our commitment to turn Iraq over to Iraqi rule*, would reassure the Iraqis who fear or suspect that we plan to stay in Iraq over the long-term. Without Iraqis who believe the worst about American motives, will the insurgency find willing recruits? When Iraqis see a light at the end of the tunnel, will more of them not be willing to take a step out on faith and make an effort at solving the problems of governing Iraq? Will Iraqis who take political action or who join the new security forces be safer and more able to perform their jobs when there is less credibility to the notion that they are aiding and abetting the enemy occupiers.

Of course, the timeline also puts some pressure on U.S. politicians to actually get something done toward withdrawing... With a timeline, it's going to be more politically difficult to continue business as usual and drag out this war for several more years. "Staying the Course" will serve only to worsen the situation that is left when we finally do withdraw, IMHO. It would be nice to see a fire lit under some White House ass. That's all I'm saying.

Back to Warner... He looks pretty good to me... A couple of others in the race do, too. I fear I won't vote enthusiastically in an election until we prove that there's enough room on a major party ticket to run someone besides a rich, white, male, Christian heterosexual. Maybe Warner would make a decent VP nod... giving him a possibility of 4-8 years in the White House to learn the business before putting him in the drivers seat. We'll see. It's still 2005 right now.

*For those who think that having elections and a parliament means the Iraqis are in charge, please remember, that the Iraqis are not the ones that decide whom to target with the tanks and guns and bombs and planes (nod to the Cranberries). It's the contingent that has the firepower that has the real political power.

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Posted by smijer at November 29, 2005 07:55 AM
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