I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the US military adventure in Iraq will wind down and casualties will be reduced to politically acceptable levels. The bad news is that reduction will not happen until after the next presidential election. Even then, a US military presence in Iraq and the rest of the region is permanent.
These lines by Arianna Huffington set me to thinking...
According to Bush's scorecard, progress on eight of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress in May has been "satisfactory," on another eight it has been "unsatisfactory," and two are too close to call.
And this, according to the president, " is a cause for optimism."
''That's like a doctor telling you that while your child has shiny hair he also has a brain tumor -- and you coming away thinking the doctor's report is "a mixed bag." That's insane. Trust me, if your kid has a brain tumor, the fact that he has nice hair or is a good speller or has made progress towards playing well with others is not going to even things out and leave you feeling upbeat and optimistic.''
Right on target, I'm afraid.
And I'm also not optimistic that anything will change much until the election is nearly over, mostly to a suspicion that Democrats have already decided that ending the war in Iraq is not going to be a Republican feather in their Red caps. Interestingly enough, enough Republicans are going along with the idea that their need to be reelected is overcoming their presumed need to do the right thing.
This is a fascinating political conundrum: By distancing themselves from their own party and president, some Republican lawmakers are protracting the war by pandering to their constituencies lest they be turned out of office next time round.
How does this work?
It works because President Bush is so predictable. No matter what they say or do, he will find a way to stonewall, prolong, and continue the Iraq adventure, using every power at his disposal up to and including presidential vetoes and executive privilege (whatever that is...).
Bush holds the aces in this game, namely that any attempt to cut off money to the war can be construed to be a cowardly betrayal of our military and by implication an effort to make us "lose." If I have heard the phrase "cut and run" once I have heard it a thousand times. Wonderful use of words to spin an idea. I recognize the rhetorical device from the good old days when I was preparing to be labeled "coward" because I was a CO. (In the case of conscientious objectors it can't stick since we were mathematically as apt to be handed a combat assignment as any other group. Nevertheless the attempt was made and continues as part of contemporary folklore.)
Meantime, the clock is ticking and we can expect things to calm down toward the middle of 2009, not before, when a newly elected Democrat ( or Republican... see how this works...they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by postponing the end of the war) does what is needed to make the killing come to an end.
Notice I didn't say "bring everyone home."
That isn't going to happen. It's not going to happen because that's just not how things are done. US troops remain in Europe, Korea, and other places where we have been at war in the past and they will remain in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as well for years to come. The only change will be that the Status of Forces Agreements in those distant places will be redefined, their missions will be re-written and they will not likely be as apt to be returned to their families in caskets.
If I had to guess, I would say that our grandchildren will be paying taxes to support US military forces all over the world just as we have been doing since the Second World War. America has become and will continue to be for the foreseeable future an empire. We think in imperial terms. We spend our money and make our investments in imperial terms. And when the subject of immigration is raised enough people think in imperial terms to prevent the subject from coming to any kind of realistic resolution. Which brings me to another interesting observation about partisan politics.
By eviscerating and finally destroying the president's immigration initiatives (one area with which I think he was/is on the right track) enough Republicans, along with the loyal opposition, have postponed yet another political plum until the next election cycle when Latino voters will no longer be the sleeping giant that they have been for the last decade or so. The arithmetic is there. And now the political will seems also to be there to do something more about illegal immigrants than build a damn fence. Call it amnesty. Call it anything you want, but the elephant in the room will not vanish just because you build enough protection to prevent any more elephants from entering.
From where I look I see Democrats biding their time, happy to throw spitwads at the administration for another year and a half. Any wins in Congress will be interpreted as presidential accomplishments, not the bi-partisan compromises envisioned by high-minded observers.