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Iraq Is Now The Democrats’ Problem, Not Dubya’s

Iraq Is Now The Democrats’ Problem, Not Dubya’s.


By David G. Miller

According to news reports from Washington, George W. Bush is now an isolated figure. Having seen his party lose control of Congress, the President is being deserted by the same allies who supported his presidency and the war in Iraq. Men such as Kenneth Adelman, Newt Gingroch and John McCain – all of them conservatives who despite supporting the invasion are ducking for cover in an effort to save their own political skins. With the Neo-Cons in retreat and the Democrats on the charge, Mr. Bush has been conciliatory in his remarks and even somewhat proactive in his dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld. Yet does the Democrat victory in the recent mid term elections and the sight of friends ducking for cover really make much difference the President at this stage of his term in office?

The case put forward here is very little at all. If anything, the emphatic nature of the Democrat win means that the path may actually be smoother for Mr. Bush for the next 2 years than had the GOP held power. The reason behind this argument is that victory may become a poisoned chalice for the Democratic Party. They hold sway on Capitol Hill but they have become the party responsible for defining America’s exit strategy from Iraq as that was the platform on which they were voted into office.

The Iraq war is shaping up as a re-run of the Vietnam conflict or at least the conclusion to the US involvement is. As I have said before, the United States military is not geared to fight a guerilla war due to their reliance on technology and firepower. The legacy of Vietnam was the ‘body-bag count’ and the America’s ensuing preoccupation with a high tech, blitzkrieg battle-plan grew from that. Although the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 brought calls that it had vanquished the ghosts of Vietnam, it was a war of this design. Even the invasion of Iraq was carried out along these lines but it has since descended into a low level war that the US has sought to avoid three decades. Now Washington, under the Democrats, is looking for an exit strategy. The first step will inevitably involve an ‘Iraqi-isation’ of the war. Iraq’s armed forces will assume the bulk of the fighting against the insurgents while the US and other international forces retreat to their fortifications. The American equipment and weaponry will be evident but the number of American troops on the ground will reduce in the coming months. Gradually the divisions will be withdrawn and while some units and advisors may remain in theatre, the American adventure in Iraq will be slowly drawn to a close. The irony of this equation is that one aim on the part of Washington legislators will be to try and insert the term ‘honourable’ into this equation.

Doesn’t Mr. Bush have a responsibility in this regard? Yes he does, but while his legacy is stained by Iraq, he does not have another election to fight and he has already become something of a lame duck figure as has Tony Blair. Even if the Republicans held Congress, Mr. Bush would have spent the next two years trying to convince domestic and world opinion that the invasion was the correct thing to do and that the overthrown of Saddam was a much greater benefit to Iraq than the civil war and break up of the country and little else.

The Democrats do not carry that baggage but instead, they come into office with the impression that they will somehow get the US out of this nightmare. Hence they have the most to lose if they fail to achieve this goal. By stating that he is open to new Iraq ideas, sacking Mr. Rumsfeld and appearing conciliatory, the President is skillfully shifting the responsibility for ending the US involvement in Iraq to his opponents and even Hilary Clinton when she takes over the White House in 2008. It is almost an admission of failure but without the words. Another ‘honourable withdrawal’ will not be good for American confidence in its foreign and defence policies but after 2008 it will not be Mr. Bush’s problem. The Republican loss at the polls may be the most fortunate thing that has happened for Mr. Bush while residing in the White House and allowing the Democrats to find the solution, the most intelligent.

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David Miller is a New Zealand based writer from Christchurch

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