Domestic Politics Hamstrings Iraq Policy
Public opinion polls showing Americans overwhelmingly frustrated with the war in Iraq and ready to begin withdrawal. Paradoxically, domestic political considerations are making it impossible to move off the status quo.
John Murtha blames the Republican primaries:
Rep. John Murtha predicted Monday that Democrats will not be able to pass any meaningful legislation to end the Iraq war until presidential primary elections are over next year. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran and war critic who chairs the appropriations subcommittee overseeing defense spending, conceded that not as many Republicans had broken with President Bush as many Democrats had predicted. “As soon as the primaries are over, you’re going to see Republicans jumping ship,” Murtha, D-Pa., said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Matt Yglesias blames the Democrats: “Not only are Democrats afraid of taking certain kinds of political risks to end the war, but they see no prospect of a political upside to ending it.”
Kevin Drum expands on that analysis:
Not only are there fewer upsides than downsides, but the upsides are vague and fuzzy while the downsides are sharp and terrifying and potentially career-ending. This is the underlying dynamic that will probably keep us in Iraq essentially forever, no matter who we elect president. It’s all very discouraging.
Jim Henley quips that this is “why the libertarian critique of the state still makes sense to people.”
Really, though, this is simply the nature of our system of separation of powers and checks and balances. The Framers created a system that makes it really hard to change policy without broad consensus and extra-constitutional measures like the filibuster added to that dynamic. Theoretically, at least, that redounds to the advantage of those with libertarian leanings. In reality, though, it often leads to guilding the lily through horse trading for votes.