The next two years are going to be politically bloody and difficult ones for the nation and the world. There is a somewhat understandable, yet naive, hope that Democratic success in the coming election will somehow corner President Bush and his team into a more rational national security posture.
To some degree this is true. Democratic political strength in the nation is palpable, and virtually everyone sees the House of Representatives changing management, though the Senate is far less certain. Senator John Warner, Bush family “fixer” James Baker III, and others see this change in course coming — and are trying to develop fig leaves for Bush to tack a different course on Iraq and US foreign policy in general.
But this view of change misses some key detail and parts of the political picture that need to be factored in.
First, Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team and new Committee chairs will not be able to hold back the calls for investigation, testimony under oath, and “public hangings” for those responsible for the corrupt practices with firms like Halliburton, the politicization of intelligence driven by Douglas Feith and friends; and the management failures that led to Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Guantanamo, and the lack of body armor for American soldiers.
In fact, Pelosi should not hold back. A public spotlight must be focused on those who took this nation in to the Iraq War — and in particular, hearings along the lines of those that Harry Truman called in the Senate in 1940 to expose war profiteers should be quickly assembled and legal investigations of the structural corruption behind this war launched.
I have my doubts that Dems will win the Senate. They may — but to be honest, winning the Senate will seriously harm the ability of Dems to win the White House in ’08. But set that issue aside for the time being.
If the House becomes the primary driver of investigations into the abuses, corruption, and duplicity that took this nation into a war that has undermined American status and security in the world, then the spotlight on the many scandals to roll forward will actually bring over Republicans.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid need to make sure that they have space in their plans for Republican defections away from the White House — and the Dems need to force Republicans to vote over and over again on legislation and resolutions and investigation authorizations related to the Iraq War and America’s currently self-defeating foreign policy.
We are going to see the implosion of the Bush presidency I think — and just like Watergate — there needs to be space for the William Cohen types and Howard Baker types of this Congress to join in a collaborative spirit with Democrats to save this country.
The problem with the thesis I am describing is that it doesn’t quite capture how reluctant the White House will be to cooperate — even if the President wants to tack towards a new and constructive direction in America’s Middle East policy.
The tug-of-war between Congress and the White House needs to be viciously theatrical in order to prepare for the 2008 race, but the Dems should NOT want to be responsible for American foreign policy or the full legislative branch of government with control of the House and a razor thin majority in the Senate. The Dems need to force accountability for what has happened on to Bush, and at the same time they really need to put some better conceptualizations of foreign policy and national security policy on the table.
Dems haven’t nearly begun to do the latter, not in my view anyway — and I very much hope that progress is made on this front soon.
But Bush will not go quietly — and more importantly — the allies for a better direction in foreign policy who actually do exist in hidden corners of the Bush administration are dominated by Cheney’s followers throughout the national security bureaucracy.
I think that the Baker-Hamilton report, which will be issued in January 2007, will call for a new, expansive commitment to regional deal-making to solve many of the unresolved problems in the Middle East and to try and create a new equilibrium of interests in the region.
I think George Bush will find the report compelling — and I think he will order his team to try and “operationalize” as much of the Baker-Hamilton report as possible.
But it won’t happen. It will be undermined in the weeds, in the nuts and bolts details, consensus will be derailed, themes reversed after Cheney convinces Bush that parts of the report are politically naive and dangerous to American and Israeli interests. I think it will be slowly torn apart by a thousand cuts in the policy development and implementation process in the Executive Branch.
Cheney doesn’t need to tell his followers — embedded in every significant part of the nation’s national security bureaucracy — what to do. As Chalmers Johnson is fond of saying, “One doesn’t need to tell geisha what to do, they know what to do.” So do Cheney’s people.
Cheney’s acolytes will see a new equilibrium in the MIddle East as code for selling out Israel’s security interests because they do see these issues in zero sum terms, even if the President of the United States does not (by then).
Cheney’s people, if not neutralized, will derail any new opportunities or directions.
They need to be exposed as part of the broad Cheney network and pushed to the side. That is the only way to let some other policy possibilities to take root in the next two years of the Bush administration.
Dems and moderate Republicans can take credit as needed for these new changes in policy — but without neutralizing Cheney down to the roots of his power — policy and political anarchy lie ahead for the country.
— Steve Clemons