The Blithering Idiocy of the DC Establishment

by dday

The Village, via Cokie Roberts, gives their very serious assessment of Iraq on ABC's This Week:

STEPHANOPOLOUS: But this is going to be a split in the party. You all (at The Nation) are backing a plan that a lot of Congressional challengers are backing (The Responsible Plan) saying, immediate withdrawal, unconditional...

VANDEN HEUVEL: that's right...


VANDEN HEUVEL: There are 42 Congressional challengers...

ROBERTS: But no major Presidential candidates are saying that, because they're sitting there saying look, we've been there, we've seen it, we think it's an irresponsible thing to do.

VANDEN HEUVEL: It is not, but you know what, the responsible thing to do is withdraw.

(you hear Cokie odiously chuckling at this point)

VANDEN HEUVEL: If we withdraw responsibly, the region would be more stable in the long term, America will be restored as a responsible global leader, and there are 42 challengers, you are absolutely right Cokie, who have a responsible plan to withdraw.

ROBERTS: Convincing the electorate of that I think would be very difficult, and I also agree that the notion that Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham you heard this morning putting forward, that Americans would prefer to win, is--

VANDEN HEUVEL: But what is winning? This war is unwinnable, there are no military solutions. And Cokie, Americans are already behind this, 2/3 of Americans believe this war was a mistake to fight. And when Dick Cheney said to ABC's Martha Raddatz last week, "I don't care what Americans think." The contempt, the disdain for Americans and for what this war has done to the military, to our economy, and to our future as a nation. If you care about responsible...

Well, Katrina Vanden Heuvel handled that a bit better than I, because I don't think I would have been able to hold down the bile after hearing Duchess Cokie of Versailles blather on about what Americans would prefer. Not that she's likely to have talked to anyone who's had to serve in this war or felt the burdens of this war, of course, but she just feels it in her very sensible and serious gut.

She doesn't have a clue what the hell she's talking about, and if she's being informed about Iraq by "Sunni, Shi'a, po-tay-to po-tah-to" McCain and his man-servant Huckleberry Graham it'd be a wonder if she could pick the country out on a map. We have an important week coming up with A Man Called Petraeus and Ryan Crocker testifying before Congress, and if this is the sober analysis we can expect out of that, we're all doomed. Because in point of fact, Iraq is at a major crossroads. The Basra offensive was a complete failure, as large swaths of the five-years-in-the-making Iraqi Army essentially refused to fight. Now Maliki is basically forming his own militia from the pro-Iranian Badr Brigade, and the intra-Shiite warfare is raging, with US troops dying today inside the Green Zone and at forward operating bases in Baghdad. The political situation is stalemated, tensions are rising within the Sadrist Shia and the Sunni Awakening groups and practically everyone else, and whatever gains have been made by the surge have vanished.

We're going to hear a lot of crap in the next week out of the Administration and their spinners, and robots like Cokie are going to lap it up because, you know, "Americans would prefer to win." That's just an ignorant and dismissive remark, and it sadly represents the depth of understanding of the tragedy in Iraq inside The Village. Of course, Cokie's just repeating what "real Americans" think; that it happens to line up with establishment opinion and helps provide cover for their epic mistake of going along with the initial invasion is just a nice perk.

In the chaotic environment of Iraq, leaving 80,000 troops to babysit the Iraqis will do about as much as having 160,000 troops do the same; in other words, nothing at all (Russ Feingold understands this). Until the fundamental question - whether a continued presence in Iraq is making America safer now and in the future - is addressed, we're doing nothing but spinning our wheels. Keeping troops in the region to try and put a lid on violence until George Bush is safely tucked away creates a huge moral hazard that simply adds to the potentially dangerous outcomes.

This explains why the Kagans’ “Iraq 4-Ever” strategy is actually worse than withdrawal. The Bush/Kagan strategy is simply to keep the maximum number of troops in Iraq as long as possible in the hopes a pony will appear. To maintain political support for the Pony Strategy, they need to peddle worse-case scenarios and paint pictures of genocide and all-out civil war.

I’ll fully concede that such events are possible – anyone who doesn’t is being dishonest. But my point is that our occupation makes them more likely, for the reasons explained above. Specifically, the longer and more indefinitely we stay, the greater the moral hazard we produce. As long as we stay indefinitely, parties will act more recklessly than they otherwise would. These actions, in turn, will have profound, unpredictable, and irreversible consequences.

The plan that Vanden Heuvel was referencing, the Responsible Plan, reflects a significant and growing wing of the Democratic Party that simply is not willing to wait around anymore while the leadership tries to come up with a coherent endgame strategy. Darcy Burner, the driving force behind the plan, has substantially improved her electoral position as a result. I don't know how that fits in with Duchess Cokie's pronouncements, other than the obvious fact that it doesn't. Well over 50 Congressional challengers have endorsed the plan, understanding that a comprehensive strategy to end the war and repair the broken institutions that enabled the disaster not only makes political sense but is absolutely vital to our national security. Ilan Goldenberg sums up the plan nicely.

For the past two years, Democrats have been offering plan after plan to end the war in Iraq. But this one is different. As opposed to the usual broad language, combined with a laundry list of policy proposals that make up traditional party platforms, the plan has a sharp focus, with a clear strategic logic focused around two fundamental principles. First, the United States must find a way to sensibly end its military mission in Iraq--and use the political, diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic tools at its disposal to mitigate the negative consequences of the war. Second, the Iraq War has done irreparable damage not just to Iraq but to our country, and the time has come to reform our institutions and put the checks and balances in place to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated [...]

Too often, candidates running for Congress make very specific proposals about foreign policy that are far outside of their purview. The "Real Security" plan of 2006 was ultimately about the executive branch; it was backed by a 120-page smattering of documents and reports that criticized the Bush Administration and catalogued hundreds of pieces of legislation that would reshape American foreign policy, but were, on the whole, too unwieldy to act as an agenda vehicle.

"A Responsible Plan" would instead serve as the congressional corollary to a Democratic presidency. It doesn't include elements over which Congress has little control, but it does push for 15 pieces of existing legislation, which focus on issues such as improving healthcare for a new generation of veterans and phasing out our reliance on military contractors such as Blackwater. Only the president can end the war in Iraq, but Congress can do its share by focusing on institutional repair and funding the right programs.

This approach is apparent in the most creative part of the document, titled "Preventing Future Iraqs." These policies focus on checking presidential authority and ensuring that Congress can't easily give the president a free hand to go to war. It calls for incorporating war funding into the regular defense budget instead of using "emergency supplementals"; eliminating the president's use of signing statements to alter the substantive meaning of a law passed by Congress; repealing parts of the Military Commissions Act that suspended habeas corpus; and ending the use of wiretapping without a FISA warrant. These are good policies for both Republican and Democratic presidents to abide by.

Without a robust Congressional counterbalance to executive power, we will not be able to stop more Iraqs. Darcy Burner and the dozens of endorsers are not only running to enter Congress but to restore the institution itself.

This Wednesday I'm helping host a low-dollar fundraising event for Darcy, where she will be flanked by a number of netroots activists (including myself and Digby) and at least two California candidates who have endorsed the plan, Ron Shepston (CA-42) and Mary Pallant (CA-24). If you want to reward and recognize true leadership and courage, and make Cokie Roberts cry, join me in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. All the information is at this ActBlue page, and you can donate at the link as well. Alternatively, if you're not in the Southern California area, you can donate to Darcy and some of our other great progressive candidates at Blue America.