Monday, 9 July 2007

Delayed reaction

According to the New York Times, the White House may be mulling over the options for the (illegal) detention center at Guantanamo Bay after years of pressure from the UN, a plethora other bodies like human rights groups, and individual nations. It was disputed over such a meeting on the fate of Gitmo ever took place, and whether it was canceled by Bush or another administration figure.

Now the NYT is reporting that the Bush administration is rethinking its stubborn troop strategy in Iraq after unprecedented dissent from within its own Republican Party, which has led to one recent case of a congressperson switching to the opposition Democratic Party. President George Bush has denied that even any preliminary planning for a gradual troop withdrawal from the turmoil stricken Mesopotamian nation is taking place in the White House.

The Iraqis and their government seem to not think US forces leaving is a good idea yet. I do agree, but real benchmarks — not the imaginary, temporizing ones that the Bush administration has conjured up — need to be put in place and the military should focus on the 'hearts and minds' effort, which includes reconstruction and social aid, more heavily than the fighting. Winning hearts and minds will make the hard military effort easier and allow a feasible withdrawal plan, like the Polk-McGovern one or the Iraq Study Group's outline, to be carried out. It doesn't look like America will win, per se in a traditional sense (note this is not a traditional struggle), but at least it will come out more ahead than it will if it continues to loose the support of the Iraqis and the international community while depleting its hard power.

At the same time Bush should get off his high horse of poor Iraq policy the Democrats should stop and think about their reactionary, populist plan for withdrawal, or should I say plans: there is still no unity on Iraq except that what is happening now is not acceptable. If the people and their lawmakers really feel that way, then work out a plan, but not some political snowball to hit the other party with. The White House is far ahead of the Democratic-majority Congress. And the polls indicate that every time the Dems get into a nasty political scuffle with the White House, like with Gonzales or the current transparency and subpoena fight, and makes a big deal about the big bad White House their approval numbers tank. Congress is in more trouble than the White House, even if the latter has worse policies and is worse overall. Congress has more hearts and minds to win at home than it thinks — in that sense the Bush administration is fine. It may have low approval but its legislative counterpart is barely hanging on.

Why don't the Democrats cut the political knifing and move on to passing some good, solid legislation? Contrary to what its political advisers have been advising, taking real action usually looks better in the eyes of the public than inflaming an inter-governmental battle. The Dems seem to be carrying out their own battle plans, not the ones they were elected on. By the time the Democrats have their delayed reaction to what the voters want and what is right, it may be too late. Bush's delayed and still sub-sub-par reactions to climate change, Iraq, and Gitmo are bad enough — it's time for the Democrats to step up, even if that doesn't change their lamentable poll numbers.

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