Next week's midterm elections may well come down to one issue: the war in Iraq, and which party is better equipped to deal with it.
asap has brought together the voices of three bloggers from across the political spectrum, giving them an opportunity to sound off, in an IM chat, on a major election issue each Thursday until Election Day.
For the final installment, the topic is Iraq.
— Judd Legum, editor of ThinkProgress.org, a progressive blog run by the Center for American Progress in Washington.
— Edward Morrissey, who runs the conservative Captain's Quarters blog.
— Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of the libertarian journal Reason and blogger on the publication's blog, Hit and Run.
Note from the editor: In some cases, comments that participants sent at the same time have been reordered to make more logical sense. Also note that capitalization and punctuation of the original chat have been preserved. And in order to preserve the participants' privacy, their screen names have been replaced with … their actual names.
asap: All right … we're talking Iraq tonight. Apparently just like everyone else.
asap: Should a timeline be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, or should withdrawal be contingent on the accomplishment of certain specified goals?
Edward Morrissey: Withdrawal means one of two things: the mission is over and it was accomplished, or the mission is over and it failed …
Edward Morrissey: If we want to accomplish the mission, then we need the latter and not the former. If we want to admit defeat …
Edward Morrissey: then we need the former and not the latter.
Judd Legum: I think we should have a timeline for withdrawal…
Judd Legum: this is the only way to succeed in Iraq…
Judd Legum: Our presence there is fueling the violence, to some extent, and more than our presence is the perception that we are never going to leave…
Judd Legum: if you look at the successes that have occurred in Iraq—election, constitution—these have occurred on a timetable…
Judd Legum: but even more than the Iraqis we need to do it for our own security … we aren't able to focus on the threat from terrorism, which is a global problem.
Nick Gillespie: the first thing we need is a series of statements that define the mission in the first place.
Nick Gillespie: are we there to create a democratic region? to have deposed tyranny in the form of Saddam? what?
Nick Gillespie: it's tempting to see the evident failure of the occupation as distinct from the military success of vanquishing Saddam. but in fact…
Nick Gillespie: the U.S. never really had a clear set of objectives in mind, which set up the occupation to fail.
Edward Morrissey: Nick, I'd say both. We accomplished one very quickly and the other is taking more time than the U.S. thought.
asap: Judd, focusing in on what you said … is the U.S. presence more helpful or harmful to the situation in Iraq right now?
Edward Morrissey: The elected Iraqi government doesn't want us to leave soon, so they apparently believe it to be helpful.
Nick Gillespie: it's in the long-run occupation, btw, that bush's failure to put together a truly international coalition is really screwing the pooch.
Nick Gillespie: it allows for all sorts of problems to creep into any movement toward democracy. it allows insurgents to be "anti-American" instead of anti-democracy.
Nick Gillespie: and it leaves any number of potential allies without a rooting interest.
Judd Legum: It is more harmful. For two reasons: 1. our indefinite presence de-incentives the Iraqis for taking control themselves and 2. we are targets
Judd Legum: I wouldn't say the "elected Iraqi government" wants us to stay. Many of them have said we should leave
Judd Legum: and the people of Iraq overwhelmingly want us to set a timeline for withdrawal
Edward Morrissey: Nick, what's your criterion for a truly int'l effort?
Edward Morrissey: Because we have had a number of countries involved in this effort.
Nick Gillespie: i think the first gulf war was unjustified—or rather, the u.s. presence there was unjustified—but the coalition that bush the elder put together was truly international, including even a number of neighboring countries.
Nick Gillespie: ed, the "coalition" this time around is a joke. it's the u.s. and, to some degree, the u.k. and that's it.
Edward Morrissey: Australia, South Korea, Italy, Poland, and Japan (in a support role) … all had significant troops in Iraq.
Nick Gillespie: we're talking troops in the hundreds, ed. come on.
Edward Morrissey: Australia had thousands of troops there. Italy had thousands of troops there!
asap: It seems like Republicans are going to ride the war on terror for the next few days, while Democrats will make sure to use the word "Iraq." Is the war in Iraq part of the war on terror?
Judd Legum: It wasn't until we invaded Iraq.
Judd Legum: The report of the Republican Senate intelligence committee makes that clear. No connections with al-Qaeda.
Edward Morrissey: Yes, I think it is. The Senate report said that Iraq had no operational connections to 9/11, not no connections to al-Qaeda at all, Judd.
Judd Legum: Obviously, Saddam had some contact with some unsavory people, but Iraq certainly wasn't the center of the terrorist threat.
Judd Legum: no, it said no connections to al-Qaeda
Judd Legum: that's from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is run by Pat Roberts, one of the president's most loyal allies.
Nick Gillespie: i think the war in iraq was a non sequitur to the war on terror.
Nick Gillespie: there's no question that iraq was an awful place with lots of scummy characters moving around.
Nick Gillespie: but it's also clear that it was not responsible in any way for 9/11 and was not in cahoots with al-qaeda or other terrorist groups of global reach the way, say, the taliban was.
Nick Gillespie: on purely political grounds, i think the american people have begun to de-link the two.
Judd Legum: that took a very long time, because Cheney et al kept pushing it
Edward Morrissey: I think Nick's right that people consider the two separately, even those who believe they're linked, and that's appropriate.
Nick Gillespie: folks are understanding that iraq and the war on terror are two different things. the first has declining support among voters. the latter remains popular with voters.
Nick Gillespie: here's hoping we're doing better in the war on terror than in the war in iraq.
asap: Let's look forward now to 2007 … how will the balance of power in Congress after the election affect the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq?
Edward Morrissey: I'm assuming you mean if the Democrats control one or both chambers of Congress …
Edward Morrissey: Given the fact that they've campaigned on Iraq, the Democrats will rightly consider that a mandate …
Edward Morrissey: and probably try to pull funding for the Iraq deployments sometime in 2007.
Judd Legum: I think it might prompt the Bush administration to accept the recommendations of the Baker commission, which reportedly will suggest redeploying troops out of Iraq
Judd Legum: But I disagree with Ed, Dems will not pull funding for the deployments
Nick Gillespie: i think a lot of this will depend on the magnitude of the democratic victory (assuming there is one)…
Nick Gillespie: at this point, every politician in america is looking for a way out of iraq.
Nick Gillespie: i think that the dems will use iraq as leverage to either temper or reverse bush/gop domestic policy. they'll go after tax cuts or maybe even stick to their rhetoric about reducing spending.
Nick Gillespie: domestic politics always trump foreign policy, unless you're talking about something like ww2.
asap: Should the magnitude of the swing, if any, have anything to do with how Congress acts?
Edward Morrissey: I think the bigger swing there might be, the bolder the Democrats will be in forcing an end to the Iraq deployments …
Edward Morrissey: and I think Nick's right about domestic policy, but that's a given (and another subject).
Judd Legum: I don't really see an outcome where dems could force anything to happen
Judd Legum: the fact is there are a lot of republicans who want to get out of Iraq…
Judd Legum: there are really no scenarios where dems get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, so it will have to be bipartisan
Nick Gillespie: i think if the dems take the house, then we'll see comprehensive immigration reform asap.
Nick Gillespie: remember too, the lame duck dynamic: republican contenders for the throne of 1600 penn ave are going to start running against bush on november 8. and if you get a military man type, like mccain, that could push a drawdown in iraq more quickly…
asap: Looking way ahead, how do you think history will remember the Iraq war?
Edward Morrissey: I think it depends on what happens after we leave.
Judd Legum: I think it will be remembered as one of the great foreign policy failures of all time.
Nick Gillespie: history will not remember the iraq war.
Nick Gillespie: any more than americans remember vietnam with any clarity or specificity (can any americans name a battle in vietnam?)
Edward Morrissey: Khe Sanh?
Edward Morrissey: sorry, showing off.;-)
Nick Gillespie: the middle east has been screwed up for a long time—even predating the colonial adventures of europe. and it will almost certainly be screwed up for a long time after we were there.
Judd Legum: Nick, that may be true, but it doesn't mean the mess we've created there is insignificant.
Judd Legum: Things can go from bad to worse.
Edward Morrissey: I agree with that, Nick, which is why we need to stop relying so much on energy that comes primarily from that region …
Edward Morrissey: We buy more oil from Canada and Mexico, but our impact on the market makes that region more important than it should be.
Nick Gillespie: sadly, i think, we missed the real opportunity to put fundamentalist islam on the run: we could have supported the growing student movement in iran that was dissatisfied with the islamic republic.
Nick Gillespie: we might have aided a true grassroots revolution against the very apotheosis of an islamic state.
Nick Gillespie: but instead we went after saddam.
Otis Hart is an asap reporter based in New York.
November 2, 2006—8:14 p.m. Copyright 2006, the Associated Press. The information contained in the AP Online news report may not be published, broadcast or redistributed without the prior written authority of the Associated Press.