Iraq Policy and the 2006 Election

David Sanger notes that those calling for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq seem strangely silent now that the election is over and the anti-Iraq side won convincingly.

To some degree, this is a function of the institutional arrangements of our government. In a parliamentary system, a sweep in the legislature yields a new prime minister and cabinet and, generally, rather swift policy changes. Our system, with its separation of powers, tends to change much more gradually.

Furthermore, elections seem to have surprisingly little impact in matters of foreign policy. Franklin Roosevelt won re-election in 1940 pledging to keep us out of the war in Europe and then did everything he could to get us in. Richard Nixon got elected in 1968 touting a secret plan to get us out of Vietnam with honor; he finally got us out in his second term, minus the honor. Bill Clinton lambasted George Bush the Elder’s policies toward China and Haiti in 1992 and then continued them for the eight years of his administration. George W. Bush ran against nation building in 2000 and, well, you know how that turned out.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I think this may be a little different. There is a sizable minority on the left that is rabid about getting the US out of Iraq. Assume for a second that there is no change in the next two years. How is this group going to react to the democrats returning to the well for their support? Assume four years of no change. Assume six years. The point of course is that given enough time, this will certainly be as destructive to the democrats as the growth in government is to the republicans.

    Both parties are made up of groups who would not necessarily align, but do so because they get their political itches scratched better in one party than the other. 45 years ago, both parties were “tough” on national security. Within 10 years the democrats had markedly move away from the “tough” position. I think as much or more than race issues, this is what split the south off from the democratic party (and the north east/coastal west off of the republican party). But when one of the groups in the political party doesn’t get their political itch scratched and the other party is in no position to make a claim to scratch that itch, things get interesting. Some will stay in the party because its the lesser of two evils. Others will drop out of the political process. And the entire group becomes ripe for a third party candidate.