Peter Trubowitz: Iraq and the Election


Many Democrats seem to think the best policy on Iraq for the November elections is to say as little as possible. They worry that Republicans will brand them “unpatriotic” if they are too critical of Bush’s policies in Iraq — if they dare, that is, to use Iraq to “nationalize” the election. However, failing to do so could be an even more costly mistake for Democrats.
James Carville and Stan Greenberg make just this point in an important strategy memo released Wednesday. Drawing on new survey data, they say “voters are prepared for an upheaval and change of party control, if the challengers define this election, run as outsiders and show voters where they would take the country.” What Democrats need to do, Carville and Greenberg argue, is turn this election into a referendum on the Republican party and its overall agenda — that is, nationalize the election around George Bush. Iraq is one of the two most powerful cards Democrats have to play (the economy is the other).
Many voters are ready for a change. If Democrats hope to capitalize on the unrest, they need to give these voters reason to vote Republicans out office. It turns out that Democrats who run hard against Bush and the Republican’s national agenda do better than those who run only against the particular weaknesses and errors of the Republican incumbent. All politics may be local, as Tip O’Neill once quipped, but as the Republicans showed in 1994, sometimes you win locally by defining the election nationally.
Al-Zarqawi’s death may cause some Democrats to hesitate. It shouldn’t. There has been too much lying and too many broken promises. The public is now ready for some straight talk on how to get our troops out of Iraq. Indeed, as Carville and Greenberg point out, vagueness on the war will be an electoral liability. In November, clarity on Iraq is likely to be equated with leadership.
Peter Trubowitz is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy.


7 comments on “Peter Trubowitz: Iraq and the Election

  1. Hydrocodone says:

    Welcome to Great Blog here!


  2. 9/11 + Iraq = Bush's fundamentalist Islamic republic says:

    … George Bush is sending American troops off to Iraq to die and get maimed so that he and his oil buddies can get rich
    George Bush is ALSO actually sending American troops off to Iraq to die and get maimed for a burgeoning fundamentalist Islamic republic with extremely close and long standing ties to Iran which recently has denied the holocaust and wishes to wipe Israel off the face o fthe earth.
    Al Dawa, the party of Al-Maliki, has been trying to make Iraq a fundamentalist Islamic republic for over twenty years.
    This is a fact.
    9/11 + Iraq = Bush’s fundamentalist Islamic republic?


  3. ghamilton says:

    For some reason that baffles me, Democrats are unable to articulate the simple truth that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, that none of the hijackers were from Iraq, and Iraq was never a military threat to the United States. It was basically a defenseless country that George Bush invaded to get rich on its oil and that American soldiers are dying for oil. The Democrats need to say this over and over and over again. They need to say that George Bush is sending American troops off to Iraq to die and get maimed so that he and his oil buddies can get rich, while the rest of America pays $3 a gallon and worries about where the next paycheck is coming from. The Democrats need to say this incessantly. To those who say that this rationale for the Iraq war is too simplistic, I say, do you want to win an election or are you looking for a good grade from you political science professor?
    This meme must be repeated and repeated, and repeated, over and over and over again. Bush is getting rich by spilling the blood of American soldiers.


  4. erichwwk says:

    Well said Richard! As long as Democratic politicians have neither the wisdom nor the courage to take a stand on what is not stupid, they are less than useless in getting us out of this debacle, even if elected.
    “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
    PS Perhaps “stupid” is the wrong word. We have a tremendous obstacle to overcome adhering to a constitution with a serious fundamental flaw in the “winner take all” format. While “stupid” from the perspective of the constituency, it is not stupid, but rational, utility maximizing behavior for politicians to act as they do, with their private costs/benefits being only weakly connected to ours. Last time I looked, Halliburton and Exxon-Mobil were doing great.


  5. Hal says:

    How do Democrats overcome the fact that they are the Gay Party, and all they do is tinged with sterotypical effeminacy?
    And heap on that huge fact that the Republicans are going to remind America of the gayness of the Gay Party every step of the way towards the mid-terms.
    Nationalize the election by whining and shreiking about Iraq, and the Republicans will double down on that with their inevitable nationalization of their own by telling the truth of Democratic gayness.
    Republican strategy uses what is commonly referred to as the Gay Cringe Effect; the visceral revulsion felt by ALL humans when seeing Men kissing Men, not to mention other more abominable acts.
    The Democratic Party is in a fatal embrace with homosexuality which will kill it. No nation ever in history has ever, and will never, elect to highest offices an openly Gay Party.
    The Republicans need only to point this out at every strategic opportunity, while Democrats just be their effeminate selves with effeminate ideas to serve as reinforcers of the Republican truth-telling about their opponents, and it’s over.


  6. Dopey says:

    Trubowitz: The public is now ready for some straight talk on how to get our troops out of Iraq.
    Straight talk?
    You sound like McCain……
    Before we do that, let’s get some *facts* straight about what Bush and his supporters have done in Iraq:
    Al Dawa, the political party of Al-Malliki, is an Iranian-based fundamentalist Shiite faction.
    For at least the last two decades, Al Dawa has been trying to violently transform secular Iraq into a fundamentalist Shiite republic.
    With the deposing of Saddam Hussein by the US and the subsequent democratic electing of Al Dawa, Iraq is now a burgeoning Islamic fundamentalist republic which has extremely close ties to Iran which Bush deemed an `axis of evil’.
    This *inadvertent* fathering of a Islamic fundamentalist republic is Bush’s direct response to 9/11.
    That is what needs to be emphasized with speed and force again and again.
    In short:
    9/11 + Iraq= Bush’s Islamic fundamentalist republic?


  7. richard power says:

    Peter is correct in suggesting that Democrats should not be afraid of speaking out about the debacle in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. It is a Mega-Mogadishu. The Democrats should be dealing with the situation as a national state of emergency. The motto should be not “Support the Troops,” but “Rescue the Troops.” This war is worse than immoral or illegal, it is stupid.
    The killing of Zarqawi (although welcome and long overdue) will have no negative impact on the insurgency. (Saddam’s capture didn’t, nor did the killing of his sons.)
    Here is an excerpt from what I posted in the days before the Zarqawi hit, it is just as true now as it was then —
    Words of Power #23: A Reality Check, What A Real World War on Terrorism Would Look Like, and a US Mid-Term Election Strategy
    What Would a Real War on Global Terrorism Look Like?
    A real “War on Global Terrorism” would be predicated on fierce historical honesty, including an unflinching look in the mirror. A real “War on Global Terrorism” would flow from an uncompromising analysis of contributing factors.
    Leaders who sincerely wanted to wage a successful “War on Global Terrorism” would not hesitate to ask what role the struggle for energy security and geopolitical hegemony plays in the founding, financing, harboring, and tasking of terrorist organizations. They would not hesitate to inquire into the relationship between religious extremism and terrorism in the context of Middle East. They would not shrink away from asking what role the struggle for energy security and geopolitical hegemony plays in the founding, financing, and support of “Mardras” school systems that propagate hate.
    The planners of a real “War on Global Terror” would identify economic opportunities as the number one priority, utilizing the Millennium Goals as an organizing principle. Their plan would be rooted in an uncompromising stand on Human Rights, e.g., the use of torture would be unthinkable, and the emancipation of women non-negotiable, in areas under our military occupation.
    Leaders who had adopted a comprehensive and intellectually honest plan for winning a “War on Global Terror” would have turned achieving energy independence through reliance on renweable resources into a national security priority, one just as vital as maintaining the power to exercise military force in the Persion Gulf. In the aftermath of 9/11, they would have remained focused on Afghanistan and not have detoured into the folly of Iraq. In the aftermath of 9/11, they would have strengthened the US position as a fair broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and not have abandoned Arafat and the PLO. In the aftermath of 9/11, they would have reached out to Iran and engaged in active diplomacy with the Khatami regime, instead of thirsting to bomb his successors.
    But it is clear now, certainly to most people, as it was to many of us before and immediately after 9/11, that this is not a “Global War on Terrorism,” but, in a real way, a “Global War *of* Terrorism.”
    In Vanity Fair, Craig Unger, author of House of Bush/House of Saud, with the insights of patriots like US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, US Air Force Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, CIA veterans Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson, US Ambassador Joe Wilson and others, tells how they sold it to you in They War They Wanted, The Lies They Needed:
    “The Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. As much of Washington knew, and the world soon learned, the charge was false. Worse, it appears to have been the cornerstone of a highly successful ‘black propaganda’ campaign with links to the White House.”
    They proved very efficient at carrying off that part, i.e. the “black propaganda” campaign aimed at the US electorate, with a lot of help from the complicity of the US mainstream news media, and the political cowardice of many in the US Senate.
    A Mid-Term Election Strategy, Three Daming Facts, and a Plan
    As the US hurtles toward the 2006 mid-term election (if there is one), the political strategy must be to turn the State of Emergency around on those that nurtured it.
    There are three damning facts that need to be hammered at over and over again, simply, and consistently:
    1. The US government (that’s your government, if you’re a US citizen) refuses to allow the International Red Cross to gain access to certain prisoners in its custody. (Torture is not only morally repugnant; it is stupid.)
    2. The US government (the House and Senate are particularly at fault on this point) refuses to fully fund and implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
    3. Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar are still alive, free and engaged in armed struggle, and influence warfare against the Western powers and their allies.
    These three damning facts are unacceptable to an overwhelming majority of US citizens, both in terms of conscience and common sense. They must be emphasized over and over again.
    And what should be done? To start, the US must adopt the Murtha plan (or its equivalent) and re-deploy. (The Democratic Party’s congressional leadership should have embraced Jack Murtha’s plan months ago.)
    And as it does so, the US should be making it clear that it is not the its military that has failed, but the civilian leadership that committed it to a war it should not have initiated, while ignoring another one it should not have turned its back on.
    Will this happen? Not unless there is at least a change of power in both the House and Senate (if that is allowed, under the present circumstances). If power changes hands, serious investigations and public hearings can be undertaken (although Bush-Cheney will refuse to comply and we will be plunged into a constitutional crisis).
    Nevertheless, this is the plan, and the rationale, that should be offered to the US electorate, and to the world. Both conscience and common sense demand it.
    For the complete text —


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