Balkinization  

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Darry Levinson thesis once more

Sandy Levinson

I note that the vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to express oppostion to the escalation/buildup/expansion/surge was 12-9, with only Chuck Hagel voting with the 11 Democrats in support. So the power of the President over members of his own party continues to dominate over many other considerations. It boggles the mind to believe that 90% of national Republicans support Bush's policy. Similarly, for what it is worth, it's hard to believe that every single Democrat opposes it. (They, of course, have their representative in Joseph Lieberman, but Lieberman appears to be completely isolated, at least among Democrats, in this regard.) It remains to be seen whether the great debate about to take place on the floor of the Senate will be much other than a purely party-based debate.

As an aside, I note that Arlen Specter continues to be a loyal lackey of his Administration, though one wonders how he might be voting if, like Norm Coleman, he were up for re-election in 2008. Coleman was one of the five Republicans who voted to end the filibuster against increasing the minimum wage. I assume this reinforces the Mayhew thesis that a desire to be re-elected takes precedence over everything else for most members of Congress. (And Coleman is one of the co-sponsors of the toned-down resolution of disapproval of the Bush policy.) This is not to suggest, incidentally, that everyone is voting simply according to self-interested calculation. I don't this explains James Webb or Joseph Lieberman, for example.

So Bush continues to get remarkable loyalty from his satraps in Congress. What will be interesting, as I have suggested previously, is whether he will reciprocate that loyalty when they need something from him. The Scotter Libby trial is already suggesting that the Administration is more than happy to throw people over the cliff in order to protect their own interests.

Comments:

We have the same issue here. Tony Blair is a lame duck prime minister. Now the Labour party is more divided than the GOP, judging by your description. And yet he can still inspire loyalty in his cronies. Bizarre.
 

There's a school of thought on the Republican side which says "I think the surge is a bad idea, but since Bush has already made up his mind, there's no point in appearing divided just for the sake of appearing divided." I think Dick Lugar subscribes to this school. I think he's a man of good faith.

Frankly, I'm not sure how many Senators on the Democratic side think this resolution really has a chance to change the course, and how many simply want to go on record as being opposed. Both are acceptable motivations, of course, but I wish I knew the actual answer.
 

It is ultimately important to register disapproval at what ever level is available.

Because in all of this wonderful constitutinal debate it seems sadly clear that the number of deaths and disabilities has been forgotten. Each of the 21,500 surge soldiers has, in effect, a torget on their uniform. A fact that those in Washington seem all to ready to forget.
 

Short of defunding the war, there is no way to force Bush to face the consequences of the debacle he has unleashed.

Since the Democrats don't want to be scapegoated for a distinctively Republican war, they won't do that.

If the situation in Iraq continues to spin out of control, Bush's support in Congress will collapse because Republicans won't want to face the voters in 2008 under the same conditions that existed in 2006.
 

I note that the vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to express oppostion to the escalation/buildup/expansion/surge was 12-9, with only Chuck Hagel voting with the 11 Democrats in support. So the power of the President over members of his own party continues to dominate over many other considerations.

GOP opposition to this awful resolution is not grounded in any love for the unpopular Mr. Bush. Rather, the opposition is in turns based on principle and political calculation.

The pernicious purpose of this otherwise meaningless resolution is to further weaken support for the war while our troops are in the field to the point where Vietnam style funding limits and then defunding of the war becomes politically feasible.

The likely effect of this plan on the enemy is predictable, although as of yet largely unspoken in public by the military until General Petraeus testified before the Senate the other day.

The Washington Post wire service reported:

In a move that is unusual for an active-duty officer, Petraeus also spoke against pending Senate resolutions disapproving of the new Bush strategy. [Senator Lieberman] [a]sked whether those resolutions would give encouragement to the enemy by exposing divisions among the American people, he replied: "That's correct.

The NYT wire service added:

Responding to a question from Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, General Petraeus said that an early withdrawal of American forces from Iraq would prompt an increase in sectarian violence and probably lead neighboring powers to interfere there.

Interestingly,or perhaps predictably, these paragraphs I read on the internet disappeared when I read the print versions of these articles published in our local Colorado papers. Did anyone see them in the print versions of the WP and NYT?

To make this effect on the enemy clearer, let us turn the tables. If the military captured a letter from bin Laden to whoever the surviving leader of al Qaeada in Iraq is this week telling him that al Qaeda was not sending anymore fighters into Iraq because they all keep dying and was going to stop sending money soon, don't you think that our troops fighting al Qaeda in Iraq would be thrilled and fight even harder? This is the reaction the enemy has already had to these resolutions.

Anyway, back to the subject. Most of the GOP members of Congress are hawks and oppose the purpose of this resolution and the defunding bills waiting in the wings for just the reasons General Petraeus laid out.

For those in the GOP caucus who lack principles or support the purpose of this resolution, there is the crass political calculation that a large and solid majority of GOP likely voters support the war effort and would frown upon one of their representatives supporting this resolution.

Additionally, for those who have any historical perspective, representatives of both parties may want to remember that after popular support for the Vietnam War was destroyed and a Dem congress limited and then withdrew war funding as is the desire today, many of the voters who opposed the war at the time later blamed the Dems for losing the Vietnam War and voted for the GOP until the Cold War was at last won and they felt it safe to provide plurality votes for Mr. Clinton. Voters are not going to blame themselves for supporting surrender, they will blame the party which enacted it.

Thus, this resolution will probably have very limited GOP support when it comes to a final vote, if it is not filibustered outright.
 

Bart Depalma:"GOP opposition to this awful resolution is not grounded in any love for the unpopular Mr. Bush. Rather, the opposition is in turns based on principle and political calculation.

Political calculation, yes, principal, hardly. They're politicians. Really, such specious politicking in the form of painting all who disagree with you as unprincipled and all GOPs as 'good guys' and 'crats as unprincipled eaters of children casts a shadow on the rest of the post, however thoughtful or interesting it is.

True that it will probably give al-Qaeda cause to think they have made headway. If, however, we change what we do solely based on what it may or may not give them cause to think, we truly have no principles and are entirely at their mercy.

Still, I think that Bush's 'hold' on the republican party is not so good these days. A more lightly worded disapproval would probably be more popular amonst republicans.
 

bitswapper said...

Bart Depalma:"GOP opposition to this awful resolution is not grounded in any love for the unpopular Mr. Bush. Rather, the opposition is in turns based on principle and political calculation.

Political calculation, yes, principal, hardly. They're politicians. Really, such specious politicking in the form of painting all who disagree with you as unprincipled and all GOPs as 'good guys' and 'crats as unprincipled eaters of children casts a shadow on the rest of the post, however thoughtful or interesting it is.


I did not mean to give that impression. Both parties have members who act out of principle or out of political calculation or a combination of both. On the Dem side, I assume that folks like Russ Feingold are principled in their consistent opposition of the war. However, one must conclude that Ms. Pelousi's sudden opposition to sending additional troops to Iraq after she herself previously called for reinforcements is based on hypocritical political calculation rather than any principle.

Now, having noted that some of the anti war Dems may be acting out of principle rather than political calculation, that does not mean that I find that principle to be laudable in any way. I am sorry if I insult anyone here, but I find the idea of surrendering Iraq to the enemy after our troops have paid the price in blood to win every battle to be reprehensible, and encouraging the enemy while our troops are still in the field to be even worse.

True that it will probably give al-Qaeda cause to think they have made headway. If, however, we change what we do solely based on what it may or may not give them cause to think, we truly have no principles and are entirely at their mercy.

Interesting point. However, in what is essentially a war of wills where the objective is to break enemy morale, I would contend that actions which encourage that enemy are counter productive. For example, while this was probably unforeseeable at the time, the US withdrawal from Somalia after only suffering 19 KIA in the Battle of Mogadishu was considered to be an enormous victory for Islam by al Qaeda and used as a recruiting tool for future attacks against the United States including 9/11. Today, we know the enemy will take any surrender of Iraq to be an epochal victory, so we have no argument to ignorance for providing them this victory.

Still, I think that Bush's 'hold' on the republican party is not so good these days. A more lightly worded disapproval would probably be more popular amonst republicans.

You are completely correct. The sunshine Elephants among the GOP are showing they value political CYA over principle in the Senate and to a lesser extent in the House. The 2006 elections have them spooked. Over the next year, we will see who on the GOP side supported the war effort out of principle or simply because it was popular at the time.
 

Bart Depalma: The pernicious purpose of this otherwise meaningless resolution is to further weaken support for the war while our troops are in the field to the point where Vietnam style funding limits and then defunding of the war becomes politically feasible.

How can you justify this comment? Support for the war is already at rock bottom; a CNN/Opinion Research Poll puts 68% of Americans in opposition to the troop surge, with a mere 26% supporting the surge (MoE = +/- 3, 1/19-1/21). An astounding 70% of Americans disapprove of president Bush's handling of the war and 65% favor either immediate withdrawal or withdrawal within one year, with only 30% calling for an indefinite deployment. At what point do you suggest that the House voice the dissatisfaction of their constituents? If the vast majority of Americans oppose continuing the Iraq War, how can voicing that opposition be construed as a mere effort to "further weaken support for the war"? What support is there remaining to convert?

You go on to claim that Al Qaeda will somehow be reinvigorated by a nonbinding resolution voicing opposition to the troop surge. However you ignore the fact that this opposition is already well voiced and disseminated. Open any newspaper in the world and you will see that there is little support amongst the American people for the president's war in Iraq. Anyone with even a modicum historical hindsight knows full well that when 65% of Americans are calling for their government to end a war, the war is going to end. At this point, it is not a matter of "if" the war will end, but rather "when." In the interim, the People do not want to send 20,000 additional sons and daughters to face death and maiming simply to satisfy the desires of armchair neocons. At a point, we must say "no" to escalation and indefinite deployment in a war without a defined goal or plan for victory. We have now reached that point.
 

Of all the two faced stunts I have seen, this one has to be near the top.

After General Petraeus told the Senatye Armed Service Committee that he needed the reinforcing troops to execute his plan to pacify Baghdad, every single Dem on the committee who plans to vote for the resolution calling for the denial of those reinforcements all voted to approve Patreaus' appointment to command Iraq, smiled and wished him God speed and success.

General, don't mind this knife we are about to put in your back, we wish you all the luck in the world....
 

Keith E Carr said...

Bart Depalma: The pernicious purpose of this otherwise meaningless resolution is to further weaken support for the war while our troops are in the field to the point where Vietnam style funding limits and then defunding of the war becomes politically feasible.

If the vast majority of Americans oppose continuing the Iraq War, how can voicing that opposition be construed as a mere effort to "further weaken support for the war"? What support is there remaining to convert?


The Dems obviously do not believe these polls provide them with the cover to pull the rug out from under our troops an defund the war. Neither do I.

You go on to claim that Al Qaeda will somehow be reinvigorated by a nonbinding resolution voicing opposition to the troop surge. However you ignore the fact that this opposition is already well voiced and disseminated.

You are quite right. The polling and the Dems 2006 campaign has made it quite clear to the enemy all they need to do is wait us out and we will lose patience and surrender Iraq. The enemy was also quite clear to the press that they thought the 2006 election results meant US withdrawal and their victory. This resolution is simply the beginning of putting that campaign into effect.
 

"Bart" DePalma thinks our troops are slackers:

... don't you think that our troops fighting al Qaeda in Iraq would be thrilled and fight even harder?

Maybe they're drinking too many lattes to get the joob done, eh?

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma just makes sh*te up:

...many of the voters who opposed the war at the time later blamed the Dems for losing the Vietnam War...

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

However, one must conclude that Ms. Pelousi's sudden opposition to sending additional troops to Iraq after she herself previously called for reinforcements is based on hypocritical political calculation rather than any principle....

... as opposed to Dubya's principled flip-flopping on that very same issue.

Of course, most rational people thought that the best time for enough troops to maintain order was before things went to hell in a handbasket and vicious sectarian cycles of violence (all demanding another eye for an eye) broke out. Many think that we've gone past the point where that would be effective.

Dubya, of course, didn't see the problem (which I, for one, saw), and let things go to hell in a handbasket, and now that violence has surged and tempers are at their worst, is of the considered opinion that putting more troops in the middle of this carnage now -- a dollar short and a day late -- is a "good thing".....

Cheers,
 

Bart,

Who is this Pelousi you continue to speak of?

Thanks!
 

Who is this Pelousi you continue to speak of?

It's Bart's way of showing he is a childish and sexist dick, who obviously has no balls of his own since he stoops to the level of sexist name-calling. If he had an actual point, and not some cut-and-pasted one he borrowed from RW blogs, he wouldn't need to resort to the sexist and infantile name-calling. His deliberate misspelling of Pelosi's name, in other words, tells you all you need to know about Bart. Meaning: don't feed the monkey; he'll only throw feces.
 

Bart Depalma: The polling and the Dems 2006 campaign has made it quite clear to the enemy all they need to do is wait us out and we will lose patience and surrender Iraq.

So the voicing of the will of the American people, either by the people directly through polling or by the representatives of the people through a democratically elected Congress has made their opinion of the war abundantly clear. What do you propose as an alternative? How do you suggest we keep the opposition of 195 million Americans a secret from "the Enemy"? I submit that the only viable mechanism for doing so would be through an authoritarian dictatorship, the adoption of which would hardly make us more morally righteous than the dictators we replace. Perhaps you would be more comfortable if the United States adopted Taliban-style autocratic rule? At least that would do away with all those pesky "opinions" the American people keep having about where to expend the lives of their sons and daughters.

Bart Depalma: The enemy was also quite clear to the press that they thought the 2006 election results meant US withdrawal and their victory. This resolution is simply the beginning of putting that campaign into effect."

I must protest the use of the undefined blanket term, "the enemy." We are currently engaging many separate enemies in Iraq--Sunni militia, Shia militia and Iranian advisors, free-lancing pro-Wahabbi pan-Arab fighters, possible Al Qaeda loyalists/elements, countless petty warlords, rival political factions jockeying for control of the different tribal sects, et. al. To imply that there exists a single, unified "enemy" ignores the fact that the vast majority of the violence in Iraq today is the business of one rival faction of "the enemy" against another faction of "the enemy." Define your terms.

What, in your opinion, are the achievable goals of this war? What is a reasonable time frame for such a conflict? Why do Republicans retreat from the responsibility of actually presenting a coherent strategic vision and instead fall back on labeling as "irresponsible" any and all who refuse to sacrifice the nations youth and treasure in the furtherance of an undefined conflict founded on falsehoods?
 

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