Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Advice on Iraq, From Everyone: The Real Battle on Iraq Is Local

Posted by K.E. White on June 23, 2007

Proliferation Press Editorial

The public, contrary to the image of many polls, is still lost on Iraq. And, predictably, the presidential candidates will mould the ’08 public consensus on Iraq. But it will be the micro-politics on think tanks, advocacy groups and veterans who will hand the White House aspirants their choices, and most likely determine the winner.

Progress is building on reconstituting the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The proposal, emerging as a thought on the House floor on June 7th, now has funding. The House approved a measure Friday to transfer $1 million from other State Department funding to the ISG. (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in undoubtedly thrilled.)

But, as WaPo notes, will this ever-increasing volume of advice drown out any definitive Iraq assessment?

Probably. But such a concern presumes the following: 1) The White House will change policy, 2) Congress can dictate that change, and 3) Congress would want to take the reins on Iraq.

The first assumption has some substance. The White House, while incredibly resolute or stubborn—depending on your view—on Iraq policy, cannot have Republican support for the executive collapse on Iraq. Such a collapse would destroy any momentum on other foreign policy fonts—India nuclear deal or North Korea nuclear crisis are two examples. And Bush would be an utterly empty suit on the world stage.

But such a collapse will unlikely. Americans, while favoring a pull-out, still support the White House making the final call on Iraq. Why this dissonance, illustrated so strongly by the staunch report for U.S. troops in Iraq by Republican contenders for the White House.

Increasingly the public feels the war is lost, but they also know—in the age of international terrorism—that leaving Iraq could cause problems at home or aboard. And most critically, the public has yet to find a national leader on Iraq.

This leaves Congress in a bind. Congressional Democrats lose whenever they try to ‘own’ Iraq, as Reid’s disastrous attempt to cut funding for Iraq. Not only do the Democrats lose on opinion polls, Democratic unity is shattered. Bush owning Iraq, which he can continue to do for the near-term, is the best path for Democratic success in 2008.

So drowning the public in Iraq advice meets everyone’s interest. Republicans can cover themselves, but continue support for a lingering surge. Democrats can increasingly choke the White House, without stinging ‘cut and run’ labels bandied about.

But 2008 looms large. The two-major party candidates will have to lead on Iraq—something that has yet to fully materialize.

Priming the now wandering public is paramount. Advocacy groups, politicians and other invested parties on both sides of Iraq policy will work hard to influence public opinion.

This frenzied, grass-roots battle to mesh the ‘silent majority’ on Iraq will set the 2008 Iraq debate.

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