Inside The Plan
At this hour, the website for the Responsible Plan to End The War In Iraq has just gone live. I urge you to check it out and read the plan. Alternatively, you can read the following summary.
The beauty of this plan is in its recognition that the decision to invade Iraq was a catastrophe not just on its own merits, but because of what it said about the failure of our democracy to ably consider and implement solutions to national security challenges. A failed media, an executive drunk with power, and an emasculated Congress were all culpable in the systemic failure that was Iraq. And so for the first time, we have a comprehensive plan that seeks to address THAT side of the national security debate, the broken institutions, as opposed to simply setting up a timeline for a phased withdrawal with various dates and numbers.
We know that the right has long posited Iraq with the demonstrably false choice of stay and win or cut and run. As our failed media suffers from what CAP fellow Brian Katulis has called a "national security deficit disorder," and as most of our national security elites are bestowed with "seriousness" based on their willingness to argue for continued war and intervention at every opportunity, it's become impossible to reach a positive solution while boxed in by that "heads I win, tails you lose" framework. But a progressive national security alternative is possible, and is described in this plan. On the question of Iraq, the plan acknowledges, rightly, that there remains no military solution to the problems we face in Iraq. Which of course we know. Over the last five years, Iraqis have seen near-constant bloodshed (today's bombing of Shiite pilgrims in Karbala on the way to the Imam Hussein shrine, by the way, could prove to be as destabilizing as the bombing of the Golden Done in Samarra in 2006), ethnic cleansing, the rise of dangerous militias, theocratic power-wielding zealots and warlords, a political stalemate verging on civil war, and no discernible improvement in basic services since the invasion. Dick Cheney and John McCain have to sneak into Iraq unannounced by night, while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is greeted as a liberator. Iraqis believe we are a destabilizing force in the nation and the region, and our military is not built to do any more than what they already have done. So the plan recognizes that our military presence must end, and that diplomatic, humanitarian and economic missions must supplant them.
End U.S. military action in Iraq:
There is no military solution in Iraq. Our current course unacceptably holds U.S. strategic fortunes hostage to events in Iraq that are beyond our control; we must change course. Using diplomatic, political, and economic power, we can responsibly end the war and removing all of our troops from Iraq.
Using U.S. diplomatic power:
Much of the remaining work to be completed in Iraq requires the effective use of diplomatic power. Many of Iraq’s neighbors are currently contributing to instability and need to be persuaded to assist instead in stabilization.
Addressing humanitarian concerns:
The humanitarian crisis caused by Iraq’s situation is destabilizing to the region and damaging to America’s moral credibility. We must both take responsibility for the Iraqis who are now endangered because of their assistance to the U.S. and begin to address the regional problems of displaced Iraqis.
The particular strategies with respect to Iraq are solid and necessary, and lean heavily on the more noble and more ignored aspects of the Iraq Study Group report. This includes renouncing permanent bases in Iraq and control of Iraqi oil, in addition to a diplomatic surge reaching out to the entire region (including Iran and Syria), aid from the international community for nation-building, fixing the horrible refugee crisis which is a human rights abomination, and giving an expanded role to economic reconstruction, where the Iraqis are reaping the benefits, not private military contractors.
The strategies with respect to changing the national security conversation and repairing broken institutions, ensuring that we never enter into such a misguided foreign policy blunder again, are transformative. The plan calls for an independent war crimes commission to gather testimonies and hold perpetrators accountable. It calls for incorporating all war funding into the normal budget process, so that war funding cannot be made separate from the fiscal realities of the nation and used as a club with which to beat political opponents. It calls for ending the practices of torture and rendition and warrantless spying and signing statements and the denial of habeas corpus, practices which have shredded our civil liberties, diminished our authority to lead, and expanded executive authority at the expense of the Congress. It calls for full funding of veterans care and the GI bill so we actually support the troops and factor in the basic dignity of soldiers who we send off to fight into that decision-making process. It calls for relentless oversight of waste and fraud and abuse in the contracting process, and no more outsourcing our security to private companies like Blackwater. Crucially, it calls for an end to media consolidation, so the public airwaves and a free press are no longer controlled by the unaccountable few. And it calls for a clean energy economy, so we need not consider foreign oil into our war calculus and so we can regain the capacity to control our economic future.
Fifteen of these proposals already exist in the form of legislation introduced in the House and Senate; current legislators ought to sign on to them. But they have not been combined and expanded in such a way to offer a comprehensive view of how to end the war and repair the broken institutions that got us there. While this plan is redolent of a kind of Contract With America, there is a crucial difference. Newt Gingrich supplied the Contract With America from the top-down, giving it to Congressional candidates as a tool to use in their campaigns (also, he didn't do it until 6 weeks before the election and used it mostly as a media tool). This is a candidate-written, candidate-implemented, candidate-structured proposal from a group of progressive challengers who hold no current power in the Congress or the leadership of the party, culling from the ideas and concerns of the rank and file to put forth a full set of policy options to end the war and radically change how we view national security.
I know a lot of people that I talk to about the war feel impotent, powerless to do anything specific and tangible outside of railing at the feckless Democratic establishment that has offered little in the way of change in this area. This is finally an initiative where citizens have something to offer. They can extend their time, their energy, their talents, their enthusiasm, and their resources to get these 10 candidates into office. It's rare to see Congressional candidates run on specific policy, and it shows a real courage and consideration into what their constituents actually want. That's leadership that will be rewarded in November. All of the co-signers of the Responsible Plan can be found at this Act Blue. Donate, be it your time or your money or just by telling your friend about them. And tell the Democrat running in your neck of the woods that they can only earn your support by signing on to this plan.