Some important dynamics of the war in Iraq have been influenced, if not driven, by Washington politics. The mid-term elections and the coming Democratic victories will mark another turning point.
But do not expect cut and run. The next two years are likely to mark a major intensification of the war in Iraq and a renewal of the Neocon project.
Here is a time line that helps explain why:
2002 Midterms: Prior to the 2002 mid-term elections, the Bush administration sends lots of mixed signals about policy in the Middle East and alienates Right Zionists with Cheney’s tour of the Arab world.
Neocon Aftermath: With the 2002 elections out of the way, the Bush administration moves toward its most strident Right Zionist policies with the invasion of Iraq and a radical program of de-Baathification in Iraq.
2004 Presidential Elections: Ahead of the 2004 elections, Rove allegedly demands “no war in ’04” and the Bush administration appears to moderate its policy in Iraq, appointing an ex-Baathist as its first Prime Minister, reversing previous de-Baathification orders, and handing Fallujah to a Baathist military officer. Brent Scowcroft predicts that a second term will see diminished Neocon power.
Neocon Aftermath: With the 2004 elections out of the way, the Bush administration reverses course and reinvigorates the Neocon project, launching a massive assault on Fallujah and sponsoring three major votes–elections in January and December 2005 and the constitutional referendum in October 2005–that alienate Sunni Arabs and empower the Shiite and Kurdish populations.
2006 Midterms: The Bush administration welcomes the formation of an Iraq Study Group led by Realist/Right Arabist James Baker and suggests that it is willing to consider all kinds of tactical changes, including quiet chatter about an anti-Shiite coup.
Neocon Aftermath: It is too early to fill in the blanks regarding the Neocon Aftermath of the 2006 midterms. But one can imagine the basic outlines: hang Saddam, further alienate Sunni Arabs through US support for Shiite regional autonomy via a new hydrocarbons law, renew push toward regime change in Iran, etc?).
The general pattern of pre-election hesitancy and post-election audacity looks set to continue.
Exhibit A: Dick Cheney vows “full speed ahead” in Iraq:
“It may not be popular with the public. It doesn’t matter, in the sense that we have to continue what we think is right,” Cheney said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re not running for office. We’re doing what we think is right.”
“I think it’ll have some effect perhaps in the Congress,” he said of the election’s outcome, “but the president’s made clear what his objective is. It’s victory in Iraq. And it’s full speed ahead on that basis. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Won’t 2006 be different? After all, one might argue, the other elections resulted in Republican victories and this time the Democrats are going to win.
Let us stipulate, for the sake of argument, that the Dems win both the House and Senate.
What will the Democrats do?
The Los Angeles Times quotes Marshall Wittmann, the figure who perfectly embodies the common ground that unites John McCain/Bill Kristol Neocons and Dem Zionists:
“It will be a new day,” said Marshall Wittmann, a former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who is now with the moderate Democratic Leadership Council. “The real factor [Bush] has to fear is a collapse of support among Republicans, as well as Democrats.”
Some analysts, including Wittmann, expect that Democrats would use any new leverage to push Bush to replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; his ouster has been demanded by a growing list of Republicans as well as Democrats.
I do not think they will manage to get Bush to dump Rumsfeld. No matter. The real issue is that Congressional pressure from some leading Democrats will be based on a bi-partisan McCain-inspired critique of Rumsfeld for not sending enough troops to win. The Democrat “critique” will function as a demand for more trooops.
In a fascinating interview on Fox’s “Studio B,” Bill Kristol recently suggested that after the mid-terms, everything would be possible. Like what?
More US troops to Iraq.