So the polls have sunk in and now senators from both parties are moving to cut their losses on Iraq. Interestingly, the leaders in this round are not presidential contenders. On the Dem side, there are Reid, Durbin and Levin. On the GOP side there are Graham of South Carolina and Warner of Virginia.
Where in the world are Hagel, Clinton, Kerry and McCain? These moderate presidential hopefuls are keeping relatively quiet, choosing instead to pick easier issues. McCain is thus coming out against torture and Dick Cheney . Kerry is coming out against Scooter Libby and Ahmed Chalabi . Hilary is coming out against the Iraqi suicide bombers in Jordan . Hagel is mostly supporting McCain's efforts on torture.
But two Democratic senators are silent on Iraq this week. That's because they already came out with their respective policies on Iraq two months ago. That would be Russ Feingold and Joe Biden. Feingold has staked out real estate at the withdrawal end of the spectrum, so far a lonely job vis-à-vis his fellow senators, but according to this New Republic article , he's won the adoration of the Howard Dean/MoveOn.org movement.
Joe Biden is on the sidelines because he came out with his Iraq policy in a Washington Post op-ed in early September. As I wrote at the time , Biden's Iraq policy was born of a need to get out ahead of Rep. Lynn Woolsey's hearings on Iraq. So, in the midst of the John Roberts confirmation hearings, Biden slapped together a laundry list of smart policies to pre-empt the representative from Petaluma. Here is Joe Biden's op-ed . And here's the great irony: If we look past the fact that the article was written before the elections, the bulk of his proposals make more sense than anyone else's.
Biden effectively argues that the U.S. must get behind a process to secure a viable power-sharing agreement for Iraq (and stop pushing the failed puppets that cooperated with the neocons). Internal security forces must be based on that legitimate national agreement (and not be an extension of the militias). And basic services must be rebuilt (as a minimum foundation for the new government).
Compare that now to the muddled three-part list from Reid, Durbin and Levin:
1. 2006 should be the year of a significant transition with Iraqi forces helping to create the conditions that will lead to the phased redeployment of U.S. military forces from Iraq.
2. The Iraqi people must be advised that U.S. military forces will not stay in Iraq indefinitely and that the Iraqis need to take the steps necessary to achieve a broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency.
3. The President shall submit a plan for success with timetables to the Congress and the American people on a quarterly basis specifying the challenges and progress in Iraq and the estimated dates for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq.
The key to peace in Iraq is a viable, legitimate constitution that meets the needs of the three major factions in Iraq and protects minority rights. The United States must first create the conditions for that national reconciliation process to succeed and then move expeditiously to hand over power to it. That's the fastest way out of Iraq.
Tomorrow, Bob Dreyfuss will have the latest on the upcoming national reconciliation talks hosted by the Arab League in Cairo this coming Saturday. The White House has been remarkably cool to this process, for it will threaten their puppets in Baghdad.
That gives Democrats a great opportunity to differentiate their Iraq policy from Bush, to take the responsible path, and show a clear plan for ending the war and bringing home the troops. Muddled poll-driven amendments won't do that.
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