In radio and television interviews since the election, I have argued repeatedly that the November 7 vote did not just empower Democrats to do the right thing with regard to the Iraq debacle. It also freed up Republicans — particularly Senate Republicans who have long been ill at ease with the neoconservative nonsense peddled by the Bush administration.
Now that the votes have been counted, the American people are ready for swift steps to extract U.S. forces from a no-win situation.
Yet, while Democratic leaders talk of “going slow,” smart Republicans are recognizing the political opening and seizing it.
Case in point: Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s opinion piece in Sunday’s Washington Post.
Hagel has long been blunter than his Democratic colleagues about the disaster that the Iraq occupation has become for the U.S. The Nebraska Republican was making comparisons between the Vietnam War, in which he served, and the Iraq imbroglio months ago — at a point when most Senate Democrats were holding their tongues.
Hagel has now taken the mightly leap of declaring that it is time to “form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq.”
“We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam,” Hagel writes in the Post. “Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
While I might disagree with Hagel about the “honorable intentions” of the invasion and occupation, he gets no challenge from this quarter on his observations that the war has been “misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged” and that the Bush administration’s approach has been characterized by “arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam.”
Hagel is making precisely the case for withdrawal that Congressional Democrats should be offering at this point:
“The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We’ve already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq,” the Nebraskan argues. “We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We’ve been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.”