Thursday, November 09, 2006

Democrats and National Security

Steve Andreasen, who served on the NSC as director for defense policy and arms control during the Clinton Administration, offers his thoughts on the aftermath of the elections:

Relations between congressional Democrats and the White House could quickly deteriorate to the point where national security policy gets stuck in neutral as the country awaits the 2008 election. Democrats, however, have a big stake in proving they can now develop concrete proposals for improving America's security, recognizing that Bush will retain a strong hand in national security and foreign affairs.

Some points he raises:

"Democrats should use their new majority power to schedule congressional hearings, not to rehash the past but to create the foundation for a new policy. They should address how we can manage our withdrawal from Iraq in a way that preserves our ability to positively influence the raging political and military currents within Iraq while minimizing perceptions that America is retreating from the region. Democrats may get an assist in this effort from the conclusions of a new bipartisan report on Iraq by former Secretary of State James Baker and Rep. Lee Hamilton. Republicans who survived in 2006 by distancing themselves from the president on Iraq might also pitch in.

Second, constructive congressional oversight can be used to create political support for the president to deal boldly with the spread of nuclear arms in volatile regions. Congressional Democrats should make clear they would favor a commitment, in exchange for the verifiable dismantling of North Korea's and Iran's nuclear arms capabilities, to end sanctions and normalize relations with both Pyongyang and Tehran, and to guarantee Washington will not attack either nation."

Interesting to see how things develop. Andreasen is calling for a bipartisan approach. I suspect that on both sides of the aisle the next two years are an interlude for stoking partisan warfare--although I do think that the clock is running out on Iran and North Korea and the pressure for some sort of solution will force both the White House and the Democratic leadership into some sort of compromise position.

What better way to compel administration cooperation with Democratic policy initiatives than the "threat" of "congressional hearings" to investigate "the past" -- or at least, a proper vetting of "unitary executive power." Or, better yet, actually commencing (low-grade, low-volume) hearings -- i.e., duty-bound functional reviews of Iraq-related funding, domestic surveillance, interrogation techniques etc. -- to ensure administration cooperation over the next 2 years and more importantly, recovery, rehabilitation of U.S. legitimacy.
People focus too much on party labels. Count heads in the Senate and the House and those advocating major course changes in Iraq--e.g. withdrawal now--are still in the minority.

Bush on the other hand does not want real bipartisanship--they will work to hold Republicans and peel enough Democrats to some sort of cosmetic change the course but pretty much staying in Iraq approach.
I think national security policy will go "in neutral." I think people are going to be disappointed by the Baker-Hamilton report which will be more DC pablum with no concrete recommendations.
Democrats were "too successful" in 2006. Corn's comments in National Interest were right on the money. The Democrats now will be perceived as being "equal partners" with Bush in sorting out foreign policy messes but still don't have the right to initiate policy but only to respond to what the executive proposes. But now Democrats will have to share responsibility and this may hurt them in 2008.
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