November 23, 2005

Lack of an alternative? Or silence by design?

The Washington Post talks of dark days for the White House, where the Republican Party is becoming increasingly desirous of an exit strategy from Iraq - or at least their association with the White House that spawned the war. One point that comes up is the 'counterpoise' between the administration - and an Democratic Party on the edge of actively opposing it. The Post article seems to conflate 'opposing it' with 'offering an alternative.'

While it may be true that the Democrats are not offering proposals as a bloc, I think it's unlikely that they simply don't have any ideas. After all, when trying legislative ju-jitsu on Rep. Murtha, the GOP themselves came up with a plan - albeit a patently unworkable one. I think that at least some of the Democratic silence in the area of proposed alternatives is quite obviously a bid to deny the GOP and more specifically the White House operatives a concrete target to attack. Swift Boat, anyone? The Democrats are in a strange position - the GOP is imploding visibly over the lack of options for Iraq. The GOP can't propose any without openly breaking with the White House - a show of splintering party discipline that they cannot afford, especially before midterms. However, the Democrats are, for once, better served by simply keeping quiet. With no counterproposal to fasten on, there is no (Democratic) target for the smear machine of Rove and Cheney.

Republicans may try to portray the Democratic silence as a bankruptcy of support for the troops and the mission. I would say instead that the Democratic silence is in fact strong support of both the military and the mission it has been saddled with. One thing that the Administration has made trenchantly clear is that it will not discuss, debate, or even examine its own actions and policies regarding Iraq. In such an environment, even the most wise and effective proposal, should it be put forth by Democrats, will end up as nothing more than a talking-points-target for the White House - denying it any chance of implementation.

By holding fire, however, the Democrats are increasing the chances that the GOP will be forced to 'open the game' and begin discussions about what to do in Iraq - and it will be difficult for the White House to slam down debate if it's started by its own party. While immediately leaving is (in my opinion) not the course to take, the very act of open debate over the future of the U.S.'s presence in Iraq - an open discussion of objectives, methods and goals - will serve our troops far better than the current White House position of 'We stay until we win' - without even preperly defining 'win.'

The question will be whether the GOP can pull itself out of its self-destructive cycle enough to even begin a proper and constructive debate on the issue before it takes enough damage from corruption charges and scandal to prevent it from doing so. Should that happen, the Democrats will be forced to open the debate. If the midterms go strongly Democratic, then they may have the momentum to do so safely, without fearing destructive interference from the White House.

Hopefully, the GOP will open the debate sooner, for the sake of our armed forces and the citizens of Iraq.

Posted by jbz at November 23, 2005 1:36 AM | TrackBack

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