Thursday, August 23, 2007

Prme Minister Maliki: Campaign Issue

There is a saying about the weather here in Chicago, "if you don't like the weather just wait five minutes because it will change". Well, the same can be said about dynamics in Washington politics. They can change just as quickly as the Chicago weather.

Why, just in July, Democrats were all set to use August to pound Iraq over the head of Republicans. A funny thing happened in the last month though. The dynamic changed. Things improved on the ground and people started to take notice. The turn started when Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack published this piece in the New York Times. Ever since then, every legislator that has made a visit to Iraq has been forced to admit that our military is in fact making progress. While most Democrats balance this assessment with the assessment that on the political front there is a disaster (a point that of course O'Hanlon and Pollack also made) their assessments have frankly changed the dynamic.

It is of course ludicrous to remove troops from the same battlefield in which you also see progress. Thus, the Democrats have found themselves in the perverbial pickle. Story after story has them changing their political tactics,,2933,294245,00.html

The party is fractured. Several Representatives have either come out to say they will vote against timetables or at least they are undecided. In the Senate of course, the score is actually 51-50 Republicans (with Lieberman siding with Reps on this one and Cheney a tie breaker), and thus the Democrats not only wouldn't have a veto proof majority for a timetable, but frankly, they probably wouldn't even have a majority.
At this point, the party speaks with several voices. Barack Obama and John Edwards continue to be outfront in criticizing the surge and calling for withdrawal, however the Blue Dogs are much more tempered.

Since the military end of the surge is working, and the troops wouldn't make a good punching bag for criticism anyway it appears some Democrats have found a new punching bag.
His name is Nuri Al Maliki and he is the Prime Minister of Iraq. It started when Carl Levin said this, "I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government". A couple days later Hillary Clinton said much the same thing, ""During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Levin ... confirmed that the Iraqi government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders, I share Senator Levin's hope that the Iraqi Parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks."

Of course, this is an unprecedented move in foreign policy hubris by these two Democrats. I don't think it takes much geopolitical knowledge to understand that is only proper protocal to never meddle in the internal dynamics of another country's democracy. It is one thing for analysts, newspapers, and pundits to criticize Al Maliki, but quite another when legislators do it. I imagine that if an honest poll were done about the feelings toward Ehud Olmert by our legislators, we would find results that echo those of Clinton's and Levin's calls regarding Al Maliki. Could you imagine the uproar, though, if Hillary Clinton publicly called on the Israeli Knesset to vote out Olmert? Yet, that is exactly what she is doing here.

Obviously, I can't get inside her head, however my suspicion is that she wants to use Maliki as a campaign issue. She must know that Bush has no choice but to publicly back Maliki, and she further knows that Maliki is an incompetent with no hope of accomplishing anything. Thus, it stands to reason that she can use Bush's public proclamations of support as yet another example of Bush being out of touch. She could contrast her own perceptiveness in seeing that Maliki is a failure while Bush blindly follows this divisive, sectarian Prime Minister off a cliff. I can only assume that she figures that her own brazen and reckless statements won't be recognized. No one, I assume she thinks, will come out and say what I am saying. Whatever we think of Maliki, it is wholly inappropriate for our politicians to call for his ouster. Bush has no choice but to stand by him no matter how silly it makes him look.

For Hillary Clinton, this can become another campaign issue. Since the surge is working and it is much more difficult to criticize, she has now found a much easier target. Never mind that her criticism only becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, and only adds fuel to his already hot flame. That really isn't very important. Never mind that Iraqi politicians are no less likely to pay attention to her, than I am to vote for her. Thus, never mind that her actual proclamation does no good, and only potential harm. She has clearly found a campaign issue. She has found something that probably polls well. She can beat Republicans over the head with the incompetent Al Maliki. Never mind again that she will never have to explain what would happen if he were to be removed, or who she thinks should take his place. She is working with a utopia, an unnamed leader who isn't sectarian, while Bush has to work with reality in all its ugliness.

I can just see her on stage, "I called for Prime Minister Maliki to be removed in August while the President stood by him despite his mounting incompetence". Yes, folks, Hillary Clinton sure has found herself a priceless campaign issue. Never mind that it goes against any standards of foreign policy protocols, and that it threatens the very ally we are trying to prop up. Never mind that the only result of her statement is to help turn our military momentum into political disaster in Iraq. Never mind any of those things everyone, because clearly Hillary Clinton believes in what Vince Lombardi once said, "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing". Thus, as long as she wins the Presidency, nevermind what disasters she may cause in the process.

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