Foreign Policy

The Big Picture

Having just returned from a brief vacation, where I looked back at Washington from the Left Coast, I saw little blurbs of gossip and information that from far away reveal the big picture.

Here are the bits that came through the news:

  1. Tony Snow, the best thing that has happened to this White House in four years, has cancer again, and it may have spread to his liver. This is bad and very sad news for all who know Tony personally and for this White House team that needs his leadership.

  2. The Iranians' seizure of 15 British marines is needlessly provocative and possibly much more significant geopolitically than has been acknowledged by the White House thus far.

  3. The Democrats are having a field day beating up the executive branch, especially the Justice Department, and the Attorney General has done a fairly lousy job explaining himself. Getting thrown under the bus by his ex-chief of staff yesterday was not helpful.

  4. The Democrats finally won a short-term victory on the war supplemental. They got their votes, and some Republicans’, and now they have a bill that will surely be vetoed by the President. It is too early to tell who won this battle, and only God knows how much pork has yet to be added to get the conference report to final passage.

  5. So here is the Big Picture. Washington is screwing around, playing political games here at home, while the Iranians are licking their chops and hoping that we leave Iraq so that they can finally dominate once and for all their neighbor and long-time adversary. The Iranians are so confident that they can win the endgame that they are playing a risky game of hardball by seizing those British Marines and then parading them on television. They are calculating that we have a weak hand because of our political shenanigans, and that we won’t do what it takes to win this game in the long run. I hope they are wrong, but given the realities of the situation today, they may be right.


Troops In Harm’s Way Because Bush Acts Unwisely

This is my friendly, professional — but strong — response to what Ron Christie argues in his post today.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are not playing, but taking the wise and appropriate actions that happen to be in line with the will of the overwhelming majority of the American people and the results of the recent election.

Regarding the surge, the troops are in harm’s way because George W. Bush ignored and disrespected the overwhelming and possibly unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who opposed the escalation.


Troops in Harm's Way While Congress Plays

Fifty-three days ago, President George W. Bush asked the Congress for additional resources to reinforce our troops in the field as they wage the war on terrorism on our behalf. Among other things, this included $769 million to support deployed troops in Iraq with an additional $1.5 billion to provide armor and equipment to these troops.

For Afghanistan, the president asked the Congress for $272 million to deploy a Combat Brigade Team and $99 million to support linguists in Afghanistan and provide additional support for the team mentioned above.

Speaker Pelosi's Magic Moment

Wouldn't it be amazing if the first woman Speaker redefines national politics and regains the high ground for Democrats on national defense and national security?

The truth is, the Speaker comes from a family of old-fashioned values and traditional standards and views America as a larger family and shared community.

The Speaker is a woman of faith, a grandma, mother, daughter, and wife. In her world, all Americans are security moms and security dads; all Americans are military moms and military dads.

For military families, it's a family affair. The Speaker's daughter Christine Pelosi is a strong advocate for vets and troops in her own right, and initiated a major program for vets through the Democratic National Committee.

If the Speaker leads an unprecedented battle for better treatment of our troops and vets she will transform American politics and can seize the high ground on national security for many years to come.

The Power Has Finally Shifted

It snuck up on all of us — the Republicans, the Democrats, the media and President Bush. The power shift the midterm elections promised has finally taken place. Everyone moved offices and got new jobs, even Donald Rumsfeld was fired, but until yesterday months had passed without the substantive shift in political direction that would actually change the war in Iraq.

The surprise Senate vote last night, to approve a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, delivered to the Democrats what they had hoped for all along but had been unable to grasp. Less than a week ago it seemed the majority couldn't possibly forge the impossible coalition of angry liberals and nervous moderates. Just yesterday morning it seemed the Senate Democrats couldn't come up with enough Republicans to overcome losing two of their own. But their victory literally came from behind, and unless the surge in troops suddenly produces miracles, there are more victories for Democrats and more difficult days for Republicans on the horizon.

Hillary's Iraq Vertigo

Hillary makes one dizzy trying to follow all of her flips and flops over Iraq.

She said, upon her return from Iraq this winter, that she was not going to vote for a cutoff of funding for the war ...

... But now she is backing a House bill to cut off funding for the war if troops are not out by September '08.

She said, at the same time, that she opposed a deadline for withdrawal ...

... But the House bill proposes just such a deadline.

She said, last week in a New York Times interview, that she would keep troops in Iraq for intelligence, training, and logistical support, air support, interdiction of Iranian infiltration, and pursuit of al Qaeda ...

... But the House bill just specifies intelligence, training, and air support, not the other missions.

Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

Hagel-Webb -- The Axis of Change

Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-Neb.) comments on ABC that he is working towards a proposal and alliance with Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) offer the possibility of a major game-changer for Iraq policy and the U.S. Senate. This is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Hagel and Webb are highly respected war heroes and legislators and among the most cogent critics of the Bush policy. They both have a major streak of independence, a fierce patriotism born of service, deep knowledge of military and world affairs and a desire to dramatically change a disastrously failed policy.

The only thing as bad as the Senate failing to honor its constitutional role for oversight and war powers would be an endless series of party-line votes without any prospect of policy change.

Breathing Room

Sure, House passage of a time line for withdrawal from Iraq is a huge victory for Democrats with their angry, anti-war base. But a new direction in our war in Iraq it is not. What happens next in the Senate is anyone's guess — the place is the original Mickey Mouse Club where "anything can happen and it usually does." Even if the time line somehow passes there it still faces the promised veto from President Bush.

Republicans say they too are accomplishing their short term goals, buying time as they join Bush in waiting out the surge. Months from now, new pressure will build on both parties. Some Republicans will likely have to retreat from their steadfast support of the war if the surge is not successful. Democrats will be asked for bolder action still by their base, and along the way there will be political tricks up GOP sleeves. One possible example is a Republican amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill when it hits the floor this summer to cuts all funds for the war.

But Democrats can feel good this week. Finally they have bought themselves some breathing room with their supporters, and House Speaker Nancy avoided what would have been an embarrassing defeat.

The Wine and Cheese Occupation

On Tuesday afternoon, peace advocates descended on the Longworth office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and said they plan to remain there until they are forced from the building. He is not the first Democrat to be stalked by anti-war protestors, and he won’t be the last. But something about them camping out at the office of Van Hollen, who just lost his mother and is charged as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with keeping his party in power in Congress in the next election, seemed particularly ironic. The crowd, no surprise, opposes his plan to support the supplemental Iraq war funding bill coming up for a vote this week.

Outside of the Bay Area home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco, the protestors have been waiting patiently for “a dialogue,” and one explained on the Tucker show this week on MSNBC that they play music and serve wine and cheese. Tucker asked that they never hold a wine and cheese party on his lawn -- not exactly something Pelosi and Van Hollen could request, of course.

Riding On a Bus

Imagine for a moment you are on a bus trip.

Driving the bus is somebody who has never driven a bus before. But he seems very confident that he knows how the bus works and where it is going.

Helping him navigate are two old-timers who have seen it all before. While they haven’t driven this bus in particular, they have been around a lot of buses in their time.

One of the old-timers is so confident he knows everything about buses, he starts tinkering with the bus as the trip commences, thinking he can get more mileage and more efficiency from it.

The other old-timer is convinced that this bus trip is essential for the future of all mankind, and his confidence is infectious.