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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007


opposition as an end, not a means

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, February 07, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
Thomas has a lengthy screed at RedState in which he decries all voters for the Democrats in 2006 as having blood on their hands. He lays into the Democrats to either put up or shut up about defunding the war, which is a false choice and simplistic narrative. I understand that it behooves the GOP politically to frame the issue of Iraq as a binary one: stay in status quo or quit tomorrow. But the truth is that serious solutions to Iraq will require more complex approaches, and not a single credible Democratic candidate for President in 08 supports an overnight withdrawal.

Here is the text of my comment at RedState in response to Thomas's angry rant.

What is your policy alternative? Is the surge of 20,000 troops to Baghdad sufficient? Will the surge actually serve to reduce sectarian violence? If more troops are needed, why didn't we begin a massive expansion of the Army five years ago, with the goal of restoring the size of the force to cold war levels? If we need more troops now, why not call for a draft? Are we being too pansy-arse in our approach? What tactics should our troops be engaging in? How would you amend the rules of engagement? Should we explicitly call for Sadr's head? Threaten Maliki? Bribe Sistani? Is Iran really the root problem? Shall we attack Iran? In what timeframe? With what specific objective? What targets?

I mean, it's all well and good as the opposition to oppose, but the GOP had 5 years to make its case and prosecute the war the way it saw fit. The voters made a choice to try fresh blood. If you're going to fault them for that, the least you can do is be specific about what the choices really are.

If you want victory in Iraq, and equate withdrawal with failure, then you must define the parameters of that victory. Do your parameters ignore the monotonically increasing sectarian violence as a valid metric for evaluation?

UPDATE: The response from RedState is, "it's not our problem". Incidentally, something relevant about forcing withdrawal from Greenwald:

When Bill Clinton was President, most of the country's leading Republicans did not seem to have any problem at all with Congressional "interference" in the President's decisions to deploy troops (really to maintain troop deployments, since President Bush 41 first deployed in Somalia). There wasn't any talk back then (at least from them) about the burden of "535 Commanders-in-Chief" or "Congressional incursions" into the President's constitutional warmaking authority. They debated restrictions that ought to be legislatively imposed on President Clinton's military deployments and then imposed them.

And Sen. McCain in particular made arguments in favor of Congressionally-mandated withdraw that are patently applicable to Iraq today. And he specifically argued with regard to forcible troop withdrawal that "responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States." The Constitution hasn't changed since 1993, so I wonder what has prompted such a fundamental shift in Republican views on the proper role of Congressional war powers.

Feingold, back in 93 and today, makes a pretty good case for the fact that Congress needn't resort to defunding a war to stop it.

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Now, Aziz. I know that you're all into framing, but let's do that honesty thing right quick. I did not and do not "decr[y] all voters for the Democrats in 2006 as having blood on their hands." To the contrary, I simply note it; they voted for policies that echo the policies of the Democrats toward the end of the Vietnam War. The GOP put, well, not its best, but at least a case, to the voters; and the result was that the Democrats, who had spent three and change years putting a different case, won. I mean no opprobium greater than I cast on voters for Democrats in 1974.

Now, as I pointed out to you in the comments, I do cast special opprobium on the Democrats for not doing what they were sent to the Hill to do. They are cowards who want to run, but fear the consequences of so doing; and so do nothing. They are, as another Contributor put it, worse than cowards.

Finally, on the Greenwald comment, I believe streiff had a rejoinder that might be relevant.


Now, Aziz. I know that you're all into framing, but let's do that honesty thing right quick.

Thomas, this isnt the RedState comment thread. Kindly check the KnownFacts about Liberals stuff at teh door and act as a I do at your abode - a guest. I don't like guests coming in and telling me what I am thinking, what I am "all into", or implying that I am dishonest when based on your lengthy association with me you surely know otherwise. OK?

I did not and do not "decr[y] all voters for the Democrats in 2006 as having blood on their hands." To the contrary, I simply note it

So you dont "decry" the fact, you note it. fine. You're welcome to try and paint a vote for a change in policy as tantamount to "blood" but the vast majority of people who voted for the Democrats did so because they wanted less blood on our hands, not more. The Republicans had every opportunity to make their case that the previous policy would mean a safer America and a more stable Iraq; any reasonable citizen watching the outcome of events would draw the obvious conclusion that neither has happenned. You can blame that on the media or leadership or whatever, but its the GOP that fumbled the ball. I understand that you are contemptous of the choice of the voters to excercize their right to hold the GOP accountable for failure, because you take it as faith that the Democrats cannot possibly do better. You equate being "in" Iraq as "victory".

Unfortunately, people like me who actually are fool enough to passionately believe that there is still a case for fostering liberalism and freedom abroad are left from the fiasco of GOP policy implementation, vainly trying to stem the riosing tide is isolationaist foreign policy that the GOP's utter failure has engendered. If you're looking for a drinking game, read my Dailykos Diary entries and take a shot for every time I am called a neocon or GOP troll. Nevertheless, I will persevere and try to undo the damage in my own limited way.

At this point I am simply accepting that withdrawal is an inevitable outcome of the GOP failure. A refresh of sorts is needed. This is one of teh primary reasons I support Edwards over the others; his withdrawal plans leave more troops in theater longer. But I can't oppose the common sense of the people (and I use the words "common sense of the people" in a very Federalist Papers sort of way). Having tried, and failed, the GOP is who have wrought the withdrawal that is inevitable. I dont fault your team for trying, only for failing. I won't fault the Dem team for withdrawing, but I will fault them for not trying again.

I do cast special opprobium on the Democrats for not doing what they were sent to the Hill to do.

this is nonsense. The Democrats were sent to Congress to end a failed policy, but not to do so irresponsibly or in a way that puts either our troops or our interests in danger. The Dems, and now the majority of Americans, define those concepts differently than you; they believe (as I do) that our interests are better served now via a combination of force and diplomacy, and by the end of Iraqi military welfare. The Dems were sent in to repair our self interest after the GOP failure. Your cvall for them to defund the war tomorrow is an absurd reading of that mandate; it puts you in Kucinich or fevered Kossack diarist territory. Thats not who the American majority voted for.

As for greenwald's analysis. streiff simply stated his disagreement, I respecytfully asked for his view, he has not provided it. FWIW I respect streiff but greenwald has more cred as a legal scholar, just as streiff has more cred as a military analyst than greenwald. I am of course one of the silly people who considers someone an expert on something based on their education, experience, etc and am not able to dismiss them just because someone else calls them a partisan hack. I'm a goofball that way.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.