Unserious?

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Bush Administration

Yesterday I wrote about Sen. Richard Lugar’s apparent shift on Iraq policy. Matt Yglesias is skeptical.

On the subject of US foreign policy, Lugar is one of the most knowledgeable senators, and certainly the Republican member who carries the most respect around town.

Then again, he’s criticized Bush before and nothing’s ever come of it. “In the past, the administration has been inclined not to disregard congress but to not take congress very seriously,” Lugar said in late December when the administration was floating the “surge” proposal, “I think this time congress has to be taken seriously.”

Congress, of course, was against the surge. And Bush didn’t take that opposition seriously at all. And when Democratic congressional leaders attempted to make him pay a price for his defiance by attaching to the war funds the administration sought a requirement that troops be withdrawn from Iraq, Bush showed how unseriously he took congressional opposition by vetoing the bill and then accusing congress of denying funds to the troops.

Democrats made a token effort to override the president’s veto, but with the Republican Party opposed – including Lugar – the veto was sustained, the surge continued, and so it will go until enough Republicans defect to the other side.

And after Senator Lugar’s speech calling for a new direction in Iraq, one of the Senator’s spokespersons told the Associated Press that the speech was not a signal Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

Which begs the question, what does Lugar hope to accomplish, and why? Surely he knows Bush doesn’t care what he thinks, so he can’t be expecting to influence Bush’s policy choices. Lugar just won re-election in 2006, so his Senate seat won’t be up for grabs again until 2012. He doesn’t have to tapdance around an angry electorate. If he doesn’t intend to vote his conscience on the war, what was this week’s speech about? Matt asks,

The shame of it is that he clearly knows better. When Bush pursues a misguided policy in Iraq, we can at least believe that Bush believes in it. When GOP legislators back his misguided policy, we can choose to believe that they, too, are misguided. Lugar, however, can see that Bush’s policies aren’t working. Indeed, dating all the way back to before the war he was raising reasonably prescient warnings and even cosponsored a resolution with Joe Biden that would have thrown some roadblocks in the path of war.

He knows Bush’s policy won’t work, but in effect – with his votes, when it counts – he’s backing Bush anyway. The question is why?

You could ask the same thing of nearly every Republican in Congress, of course. Lots of them have been willing to break ranks with Bush over his immigration policy, but not the war. I assume this is because more Republicans still support the war than support Bush’s immigration policy. The latest CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll says “Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war.” The article doesn’t say how much of an increase 38 percent represents, just that it’s an increase, and it’s still a minority. In any event, Republicans are sharply at odds with the public as a whole, two-thirds of which oppose the war.

Surely Senator Lugar and other Republicans must realize by now that as long as George W. Bush is free to conduct the war at his discretion, he will make no substantive changes in Iraq policy. Congress can pass resolutions till the cows come home; if there are no binding dates or other non-discretionary benchmarks and no veto-proof majority, Bush will ignore them.

Simon Tisdall reports for The Guardian:

Mr Reid will test Republican support for Mr Bush’s policy next month by forcing a series of votes on a withdrawal deadline, a funding cut-off, and restricting the length of combat tours. Until now only a handful of lesser-known Republicans in the House of Representatives have dared to publicly challenge Mr Bush’s conduct of the war. But latest polls suggest that 38% of Republican voters now support a withdrawal, and pressure on the party’s elected politicians is beginning to tell.

Willing to put your votes where your mouth is, Senator Lugar?

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. jerri  •  Jun 27, 2007 @10:55 am

    Betcha Lugar is getting a lot of heat from the people of Ohio. The guard units have had how many rotations into the sand box…and the tours in country are being increased while the time home decreased.

  2. merciless  •  Jun 27, 2007 @12:02 pm

    jerri, that’s good. My own congresscritter, the loathsome Heather Wilson, wrote an op-ed in the local paper where she came out absolutely against the surge. Then she voted for it.

    The news in the past couple of weeks has confused me so much that I now have no idea what anyone in Washington is going to do. Logic seems to have no place in political discourse any more, and even enlightened self-interest seems to be disappearing. I tend to agree with Atrios, who said not to kid ourselves, that nothing will happen in September.

  3. sisyphus  •  Jun 27, 2007 @3:43 pm

    Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, has an excellent article on the divide in the U.S.
    As I read it, the hawks want military power to strongly influence foreign policy, while the doves want negotiations and international institutions to drive foreign policy.
    The authors say this divide is usually the rule and will likely continue.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070701faessay86406/charles-a-kupchan-peter-l-trubowitz/grand-strategy-for-a-divided-america.html

  4. grannyeagle  •  Jun 27, 2007 @4:13 pm

    Jerri: Lugar is a senator from Indiana not Ohio and the Repugs there love him so much he can do anything and get re-elected. Anyway, since he just did get re-elected, he can relax. He has always supported Bush and he will continue to do so.

  5. RobertD  •  Jun 28, 2007 @5:55 pm

    I’ve been studying counterinsurgency operations and, in particular, the new Army (and Marine) field manual FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency. General Petraeus was the commander at CAC when this was developed and he actively participated in its development.

    I calculated the troop requirement for Iraq per the manual’s ratio of troops to civilians and found we need 50 brigades minimum – the surge is to 20 brigades. The surge won’t work per the Army’s own guiding document. More details are in my two posts at http://www.hangsatale.com/.



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