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Monday, September 10, 2007

The tricky politics of the Petraeus report 


Stratfor argues in its morning email that the politics of the Petraeus report and testimony are not quite what they seem:

The question now is what Congress will say. The Democratic leadership is signaling that it will reluctantly accept Petraeus' recommendation. But the Democrats are less reluctant than they appear. Endorsing Petraeus would allow them to at least partially shed their reputation of being weak on national security as they move toward the 2008 presidential election. They also will go into the election with the war continuing to rage, casualties mounting and -- if Petraeus and the NIE's view of the political situation in Baghdad holds -- no end in sight. All this will give Hillary Clinton and the congressional Democrats the perfect platform from which to attempt to engineer a political earthquake. They will be reluctantly pro-war, given Bush's failures, and argue that they could do no worse.

The focus now is on the congressional Republicans and the various Republican candidates -- whether they will go into November 2008, only a little more than a year away, with the war raging, victory nowhere in sight and unable to blame the Democrats for undercutting the president. Petraeus has thrown them a live hand grenade; if they follow his recommendations and the most likely scenario takes place, they will be running for election with more than 100,000 troops in a war that has been going on for more than five years and threatens to continue for at least several more. If they buck the president and engage in a public brawl while the Democrats hang back, they are also in trouble.

It is not surprising that the Democratic leadership has chosen this strategy, and it is likely they can keep the anti-war Democrats in check. The pressure on Bush will not come from them; it will come from the Republicans -- very quietly and intensely. Bush is unlikely to listen. More Republican candidates likely will decide not to run. Apart from the war in Iraq, a sea change in U.S. politics could be triggered.

If we agree with Stratfor's cynical take, then would it also be fair to say that MoveOn.org is the only thing standing between the Republicans and a decade in the wilderness?

Principled discussion of the war will resume shortly.

19 Comments:

By Blogger SR, at Mon Sep 10, 09:06:00 AM:

The time would be right, then, the President Bush to press for increased, long term war funding, more troops, more Patriot Act. Flush them out.  

By Blogger mike, at Mon Sep 10, 10:38:00 AM:

zoiks! did that once right? could he do it again?

might'n he use Iran to flush'm? that's an ugly, cynical thought.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 10, 11:04:00 AM:

It's interesting that so many pundits think the Democrats have been defeated in the war debate by current progress in Iraq. Would that it were only true, but it obviously isn't true.

The administration is merely less on the defensive than they were previously, that is true, but to me it looks like a bear rally. Whatever you call it, it's sure a long way from where we are now to calling the Iraq war debate an administration political success!

Only if GOP poll numbers start perking up will I think differently. Until then I think Stratfor is making an excellent point: the Democrats may well have built an unbeatable position on the war. If the surge fails and Iraq starts looking ugly, they look prescient. If Iraq improves, they look wise for being willing to hear Petraeus out and continue funding the war, after forcing the President to change his previously failing ways. Either way, they don't have to worry about it being an election issue.

It is absolutely critical the administration find some way of capitalizing politically here at home on the current good war news. If they don't, the GOP is settling for "the box", and giving away the only issue where candidates look able to beat the Democrats.

Andrew  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 10, 11:26:00 AM:

I want to make one further point, and make reference to the Iranian situation in doing so.

If the Bush administration is trying to leave America more safe at the end of their eight year run than the country was at the beginning, then it must provide the next President a political basis for continuing the war on terror and also a basis for pressuring Iran. In that context, it is imperative the administration show domestic political strength coming from the issue. As a piece of political theatre it's easy to dismiss the need, but without the administration finding a way to seize electoral advantage out of the surge, the report, and/or the facts on the ground, then the next administration will try to wrap up the war on terror swiftly. That will leave al Qaeda hugely bloodied, but not defeated. Is there any worse scenario than that one?

The administration must somehow come to recognize the crucial importance of getting into election mode. For the sake of all of us.

I'm not confident.

Andrew  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Mon Sep 10, 01:43:00 PM:

This would seem all the more reason for the Dems to get all their primaries done with as early in the year as possible. This lets them placate their base while milking them for primary cash, while slowly changing their message over the months until the actual election. Like Animal Farm.

Over the last few weeks we have seen quite a bit of the focus being taken off the improving military solution and turned instead to the constantly corrupt and incompetent government in Iraq. If you could summarize the thoughts of leading Democrats, the message has been “We can’t win, we must withdraw as soon as possible before more of our children are hurt or killed in Bush’s futile war for oil.” Now the message is slowly morphing into “Despite Bush’s incompetence, we’re finally getting Iraq in order, so we can begin pulling our troops out as fast as possible. You know, if we had been in charge, we would have already established a perfect government and left. Despite not having gone there in the first place. Vote for us.”

I agree with TH and Andrew, we really need a Republican who can get into election mode and truly represent the Republicans to the nation and the importance of the war on terror. That’s going to be difficult with the press in Wack a Mole mode  

By Blogger Ray, at Mon Sep 10, 06:08:00 PM:

Congress isn't capable of patience, only distraction. Somebody needs to distract them before they can get a vote passed, probably with pork. That's a reasonable approximation of patience :)  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Sep 10, 06:50:00 PM:

One of the finer arguments for a unitary chief executive with a fixed term in a nation's government is specifically to guide national policy along something resembling a coherent, steady path. Governments where the chief executive can be removed from power by a 'no confidence' vote can, in times of trouble and change, switch executives many times and each one has a different idea on how to do things and may owe their position to a different set of special interests or combination of parties in a coalition. This can lead to terribly schizophrenic and dysfunctional policies.

For example (since I just finished reading the history today) is Israel. From 1990 to 2001, a hectic time involving the peace process and economic and immigration problems, Israel had 6 prime ministers. That's an average of 2 years per. And Sharon had to undergo 3 different elections during his tenure because of shifting party loyalties. Some of what contributed to the failure of the peace process was that the demands and concessions the Israelis were willing to deal with changed with each new premier, and sometimes even during the same term with the same premier because they suddenly found it necessary to change their tune in order to keep their position in face of domestic opposition.

Rule by committee is a terrible way to run a country.

Point being, there's a fine reason that foreign policy is the responsibility of the President, not Congress.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 10, 07:15:00 PM:

Stratfor is dead wrong.

Dems are beholden to Moveon and Kos. They run the party. Already Hillary has pledged to run away/surrender in 8 months. Americans want to win.

Dems are the party of Code Pink, screechy middle aged harridans lecturing about America's sins. Moveon calling Petraeus "Betray Us" and a "warmonger" etc. Kos calling bin Laden "Reganesque" etc.

That's the Dems. Offering defeat only.

Meanwhile Iran continues it's aggression (for which Dems offer -- surrender essentially). Talking and "hug a thug" won't get it done. Particularly electorally. Osama is still releasing videos and Dems offer -- what exactly? Oh yeah international law, the UN, and hugs.

Bush and Reps are VERY vulnerable to the right, particularly a "nuke em all and go home" strategy. However they've been blessed by a party that fetishizes weakness, feminine qualities (admirable in many domestic areas, abject weakness in National Security) and conflict resolution to handle hard men like Osama and Ahamdinejad.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Mon Sep 10, 07:17:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by the author.  

By Blogger DEC, at Mon Sep 10, 10:09:00 PM:

Re: MoveOn.org and the Democrats

To me, it looks like the same old pattern:

The left-wing will yank defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Democrats will peak too early.

Along about October 10, 2008, the Democratic nominee for President will say, "I can't believe I'm gonna lose to this moron."  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Sep 11, 12:56:00 AM:

Yep, MoveOn is the best thing that ever happened to the republicans.

They provide a valuable reference point the public needs.  

By Blogger Jimmy K., at Tue Sep 11, 01:07:00 AM:

It doesn't look good for the Republicans. Yet, it is a long way from election day. Several things can happen on the way to the forum. Osama finds out there ain't 72 virgins waiting. Hillary catches Bill doing it again. Bush decides to bomb Iran.
We get hit again on U.S. soil. General Petraeus decides to use the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles to close the borders around Washington D.C. to Democrats.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 11, 03:22:00 AM:

"A decade in the wilderness" for the Republican Party will be the least of our problems if Hillary wins and the Dems get veto proof majorities.

The very survival of Western civilization itself will be on perilous ground.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 11, 02:46:00 PM:

Just a FYI:

We don't need principled discussion, we need honest and non agenda based ones.

Is America still really America if we have given up freedom? So we're secure, but is it really worth it? I keep looking at the statistics and wonder if there is any rational analysis of the dangers of Terrorism versus other causes of death.

A 15,000 people die each year from drunken driving (and 45,000 each year from driving accidents in general) But we're not calling for a ban on bars or for all cars to be equipped with a breathalyzer before you can drive.

I know I've gone pretty tangential over here. and I know we cannot predict what will happen in the future, but the idea that America is living in fear is not one I think we should tolerate any longer.

Let's quit being afraid.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Sep 11, 06:48:00 PM:

"But we're not calling for a ban on bars or for all cars to be equipped with a breathalyzer before you can drive."

Of course not. That would be an actual infringement of personal liberty.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Sep 13, 01:33:00 PM:

McCain, when asked in a blogger call today about the outlook for the war in Iraq, responded by saying, (quoting here from Powerline) "McCain said the next six months are the key. By January 2009 we'll either have shown enough success to sustain the effort or we'll have basically been forced out." He goes on to say that President Bush needs to be on television every week until the election, explaining what's happening. That is the single most important part of "showing success". If he depends on the NYT and AP to get his story out to the people, he's lost the battle.

The President is not doing his job if he doesn't build political support for the war. Threatening Iran, as they are starting to do, is almost beyond belief stupid, and certainly counterproductive since he'll build only opposition to an Iranian action, absent support for the Iraq war.

Andrew  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Sep 13, 01:46:00 PM:

PS, that's January 2008 I would imagine. Either that, or he means the next sixteen months, and not six.

But you get his point, even if Powerline missed on the exact quote...

Andrew  

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