State of the Union?
Though it is hard not to put the mute button on when Bush is speaking, tonight he will have the main forum for promoting his initiatives for 2006. That said, much like his recent speeches to pre-picked audiences in red states, don't expect much substance in this year's state of the union address; there is too much posturing to be done and reminders of the (non)connections between 9/11 and Iraq actually to have proposals based on subsequent substantive changes. In 2003, for example, Bush promised he was committed to "improving the environment," yet we know that his administration has sought to dismantle some of the laws that protect our environment, including roadless protection in state parks. Bush's record speaks for itself -- a botched response to Katrina, no post-war plan for Iraq, torture scandals, corruptions scandals for the leaders of his party, and so on -- so clever speechwriting only goes so far.
Gen. Wesley Clark has released a real state of the union address today, one from a 30 Jan. speech; it is my hope that he will be able to give his own state of the union address as president one day.http://securingamerica.com/node/560
Ending the War in Iraq
Alright, so those of us who were against or for the war in Iraq have a vested interest in democracy succeeding there; yet, my inclination is that we must begin withdrawing now so that Iraqis know that we won't be a permanent occupying force there. The public sentiment in Iraq is against our occupation, the Bush adminstration botched post-war planning, the war has cost nearly $350 billion, and it was waged under false pretenses.
That said, what would be the best way to both a) ensure that some vestige of democracy succeeds in Iraq and b) the U.S. begins withdrawal and has most troops out by the end of the year, with 2007 as the latest we are there? One can state that having the sectarian groups, the Shi'ite, Sunnis, and Kurds, form a coalition government is a good start, yet the sectarianism is still reflected in those chosen representatives from the December election; further radical Sunnis are still behind a good amount of the insurgent attacks, and many of the minority Sunnis feel disenfranchised from the entire political process. There is no magic bullet solution to this, unfortunately.
I am inclined to think that the U.S. presence there creates and fosters further problems, not solutions. Hence, if we were to withdraw and instead have a much smaller force strategically placed in the mideast somewhere (and focus more on Afghanistan), the Iraqi government would be seen as a legitimate, non-puppet entity. An attack against Iraqis would be viewed as one against the country, uniting the various sects against the perpetrators and further isolating the extremists.
We also need to yield all control of oil fields to Iraqis, procure further assistance from the U.N. and international forces, and have better control of border security. The Iraqis should control their own country and destiny, even if they have a muted version of an Islamic state; it is their choice to make, but we all have a definite interest in peace and democracy in that country, even if we were lied to in the run up to the war.
Any more ideas on withdrawing from Iraq but also ensuring that some form of democracy survives?
Looking ahead to 2008
Though Democrats need to keep their eye on the prize and focus on the 2006 congressional elections for now, it certainly isn't too early to speculate upon whom to pass the mantle of presidential nominee from Kerry. Strategically speaking, I do not see Hillary or Kerry adding much in terms of electoral expansion, but either of these candidates could squeek by with a win. If expanding the electoral possibilities, appealing to rural voters, and fielding a red state candidate is important (and it is), then I think that Wesley Clark, John Edwards, or Mark Warner should receive serious consideration. In a post 9/11 age, one would think that Clark, a former supreme allied commander for NATO, would be the natural choice, especially since Edward and Warner have less foreign policy experience. But, since much of the nation's gaze has returned to domestic concerns since Katrina, a superb manager of the Old Dominion such as Warner -- Virginia has been rated the best-managed state in the union -- could have some momentum in the primaries. Of the three, Warner currently has the biggest grassroots movement to nominate him, at least from my judgment of net activism. Edwards, well, is incredily likable, even to moderates despite his rather liberal record; I could see him doing very well in red states, winning all of the debates, and being a very formidable candidate. Now if only the Republicans don't nominate Guiliani or McCain...
Alright, I'm running this as a test for what I hope will be a political blog.