Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Democrats' insurance policy

There are few things in politics more frustrating than being technically in control and yet being unable to influence policy. The Democrats these days face that feeling of helplessness over Iraq. They were counting on a chain reaction, once they win the elections in November 2006, President Bush will be without the crutch of the congress and hence will cave in over Iraq. Instead, far from their goals of bringing troops home, the Democrats are fighting to keep more troops from going to Iraq. This is certainly not what they expected or wanted. This helplessness is leading them toward the fight that the Republicans want - the fight over funding. The Democrats know that if they were in control of the Iraq policy today there is nothing they would or could do differently. However they simply cannot concede that point unless they have a political death wish. The recent non binding votes in the House and the Senate, however meaningless, are the Democrats' way of asserting control.

There are three possible reasons that the Democrats are going in this direction.
The Democrats want to try and appease or at least pacify the anti-war faction that includes the liberal websites and blogs. There are some in this faction that would actually like the US to loose in Iraq in the hope that it would influence future foreign policy in terms of military action, and not to mention the embarrassment to Bush and the Republicans. The Democratic congress obviously does not want the US to loose, but they have to appear to accommodate this faction considering the influence it wields on the grassroots movement. This faction is actively pushing for a vote on funding, leaving the Democrats in a terrible dilemma of wanting to support the troops while at the same time being perceived as taking away their safety.

The second reason for this non binding vote is to hedge their bets for the future. If the surge does not work and the Bush administration does decide to bring the troops home, the Democrats get the ultimate advantage in politics - the position to say, 'I told you so!' and they would have a vote to prove it. This seems to be the most plausible reason for this silly non binding resolution that has no effect on anything except being an insurance policy for the Democrats running in 2008.

However the reason the Democrats have not gone as far as a vote on funding, is because they also want an insurance policy if this surge actually does work. In that case they would have the opportunity to say that their continuance of funds was because they always believed in Gen. Petraeus to achieve the goal. They can also suggest that the non binding vote was a reason that the surge worked because the non confidence vote against the President forced the administration to change tactics which ultimately led to success in Iraq.

This type of posturing to get political advantage is as old as the Congress but in this age of instant communication this can send the wrong messages to the right people and right messages to the wrong people. Iran and Iraqi insurgents and militias would love nothing more than the Congress to fight Bush over troop withdrawal. One does not need a Ph.D in psychology to know what these people are thinking. They want the Congress to cut funding so the troops would have to withdraw. If this does happen then Iraq and the middle east will look far worse than anything we see today. It is the Democrats' responsibility to ensure that this does not happen in their zealous quest to embarrass Bush and gain future political advantage.