Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ending this war, and preventing the next

If you were in Washington, DC, on Monday evening, perhaps you were lucky enough to attend the official release of A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq (h/t Jason).

I know what you’re thinking: another plan, another press event, another way to say nothing and do less. . . but in this case, you are quite possibly thinking wrong.

You might want to read the whole report (available as a pdf—see link on this page) and decide for yourself, but let me try to quickly explain why I think this plan might be different.

It understands that there is no “military solution” to the Iraq crisis. With this understanding, the plan does not tell us how to “win the war,” but instead lays out a path toward a rapid, responsible troop withdrawal coupled with a multilateral diplomatic effort that will end US military involvement in Iraq while attempting to rebuild US power of the non-lethal sort.

It puts humanitarian concerns front and center. By providing for humanitarian aid inside Iraq, as well as for the displaced Iraqis scattered worldwide, this plan makes it clear that it is not about washing our hands of the matter, or leaving the Iraqis to bloodily sort things out for themselves. It is a plan that respects the so-called “Pottery Barn rule” more than Colin Powell ever pretended to.

By acknowledging that the war was a mistake to begin with, it frees the people behind this plan to address a very important question: How can we prevent this type of fiasco from ever happening again?

It is in that last point that we find what makes this plan so refreshing—and so bold. For the authors of this plan understand that Bush’s Iraq War, at its inception, was not so much a geopolitical crisis as it was a US domestic crisis.

To that end, the Responsible Plan calls for measures that at first blush don’t necessarily seem to be about “Iraq.” Yes, it calls for a total renunciation of torture, but it also calls for the re-establishment of the constitutionally prescribed balance of power between the three branches of US government. It calls for the reinstatement of protections allotted under the Fourth Amendment, and for the restoration of Habeas rights. (That’s a lot of “re’s.”) The plan also specifically demands an end to presidential signing statements.

The Responsible Plan also deals with the fallout of Bush’s folly by addressing current recruiting shortfalls and the care of our military families—now, and long into the future—with a “GI Bill for Life.” Further, it exhibits an important degree of fiscal responsibility by advocating for the integration of Iraq expenditures into the normal budget process.

And there are a few additional proposals that I find truly remarkable, considering that this plan had to
not only meet with the approval of strategists, policy wonks, and retired military professionals, but had to gain the endorsement of current candidates for Congress, as well.

This plan calls for three things that seem to fly directly in the face of traditional campaign fundraising:

Contractor “reform”:

The need for contracting reform is substantial. Private militias have direct incentives to prolong the conflict rather than resolve it; their use needs to be phased out. Contractors must be legally accountable for their actions. War profiteering must be stopped, and those who have engaged in it need to answer for their actions.

Media independence:

The consolidation of our news media into the control of a relatively few corporate entities stifled a full and fair discussion and debate around Iraq. A more robust debate could be encouraged by expanding access to media.

And, last, but certainly not least, the plan acknowledges the link between the war in Iraq and our oil addiction, and calls for a domestic, non-oil solution:

[W]e are clearly tied to Iraq through our dependence on oil, which makes us vulnerable. Moving away from that dependence is necessary for strategic, economic, and environmental reasons.

Responsible—and comprehensive. Or, perhaps I should say, responsible because it’s comprehensive.

And I should also mention one more rather remarkable component to this proposal: A roadmap for implementation. Dive into the plan, and you will find a host of bills already pending in Congress—complete with lists of co-sponsors—bills that could be debated and maybe even passed this very summer if the Democratic leadership had the inclination, resolve, and, I will add, political savvy. (Sure, much of this legislation would get vetoed by Bush, or bottlenecked in the Senate by obstructionist Republicans and Liebercrats, but by putting it up there and out there, Democrats would show the voters that they are trying to do the people’s bidding, and it would further tie Republican candidates to an unpopular president and his failed and costly war.)

Should, however, our current crop of elected representatives fail to get the job done, the Responsible Plan has a plan for that, too. This proposal rolled out with the endorsement of multiple Democratic congressional candidates—and it is actively calling on more to jump on board. (Campaign fundraising is also being organized around support for the Responsible Plan.)

These Democratic candidates now have something to run on—which is a fabulous way to get out ahead of the competition and frame the debate. I challenge any Republican to present such a comprehensive and wide-ranging plan. But, even better, the Democrats as a party now have something to offer America. Should the bulk of the party—and, indeed, its presidential standard-bearer—endorse this proposal, Democrats could not only claim to be the party of ideas, they could be the party of solutions.

Comprehensive, responsible solutions.

A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq - Click here to add your support

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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