The Washington Post takes a deeply critical look at the Pelosi plan for Iraq:
The only constituency House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignored in her plan for amending President Bush’s supplemental war funding bill are the people of the country that U.S. troops are fighting to stabilize. The Democratic proposal doesn’t attempt to answer the question of why August 2008 is the right moment for the Iraqi government to lose all support from U.S. combat units. It doesn’t hint at what might happen if American forces were to leave at the end of this year — a development that would be triggered by the Iraqi government’s weakness. It doesn’t explain how continued U.S. interests in Iraq, which holds the world’s second-largest oil reserves and a substantial cadre of al-Qaeda militants, would be protected after 2008; in fact, it may prohibit U.S. forces from returning once they leave.
In short, the Democratic proposal to be taken up this week is an attempt to impose detailed management on a war without regard for the war itself. Will Iraq collapse into unrestrained civil conflict with “massive civilian casualties,” as the U.S. intelligence community predicts in the event of a rapid withdrawal? Will al-Qaeda establish a powerful new base for launching attacks on the United States and its allies? Will there be a regional war that sucks in Iraqi neighbors such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey? The House legislation is indifferent: Whether or not any of those events happened, U.S. forces would be gone.
The Democrats are consistent trying to ignore the 800 pound gorilla at the table — which is the reality that a departure from Iraq would be a disaster for the Middle East. The reality of the situation is that the presence of the United States is vital towards preventing al-Qaeda from finding safe haven in the country and spreading chaos across the entire region. One can argue that consequence flows from Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq — which is a legitimate argument, but entirely academic now. Unless the Democrats have perfected a time machine, we can’t go back and change history. We must deal with the problems of the present, and those problems can’t be solved by running away from them.
Not only that, but the Congress has no authority under the Constitution to put conditions on the exercise of the President’s war powers. They do have the constitutional prerogative to cut off funding for the war. Yet the Democrats know that they don’t want to be the ones holding the bag when the situation in Iraq goes from bad to nightmarish. Their “principles” are based entirely in political expediency — they supported the war when it was popular, and now that it’s not they’re against it — but only so far. Actually having to take real action that would produce a real result would mean taking responsibility for the situation, a step which the Democratic leadership has assiduously avoided.
So instead, Speaker Pelosi offers another attempt to “end the war” without actually ending the war, something she could very easily propose. The problem is that Pelosi’s strategy, while a horrible war policy, is smart politics. She has to play to the anti-war base, but she doesn’t want to be saddled with actually ending the war. So by proposing a policy which the President is constitutionally required to veto, she can give the anti-war base what they want knowing that it will do nothing.
Trying to analyze the Democratic position on Iraq from a foreign-policy standpoint is fruitless, because the Democratic plan for Iraq has nothing to do with foreign policy. It’s all about domestic politics, and electing Democrats. Pelosi’s strategy has no political downside for her — if she wins, the Democratic base can declare a victory. If she loses, the anger of the anti-war movement is unlikely to move from its fixation on the President. In fact, it’s better for her politically if she loses, thus keeping this issue alive into the 2008 cycle where it could prove as poisonous politically as it did in the last cycle.
The Democrats are certainly ignoring the gorilla in the room, but that’s because they don’t care. What happens in Iraq is entirely immaterial to the Democratic Party — it’s all based on domestic political calculations. The geopolitics in Iraq don’t matter, but the political calculations do. Pelosi is no fool, and if she can do what it takes to placate the liberal base without having to deal with that 800 pound gorilla, that’s exactly what she’ll do.