Monday, June 25, 2007

Lugar Calls For Shift In Iraq Policy

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) made a major speech on the floor of the Senate tonight calling for a new direction in Iraq. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Majority Whip, praised Lugar and likened his speech to one given by Sen. Robert Kennedy on the floor of the Senate 40 years ago about the need to end our military involvement in Vietnam. The language of Lugar's speech is a little too convoluted for my taste, but it's significance cannot be underestimated. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Bush administration can ill-afford to lose Lugar's support. The fact the President can no longer count on Lugar's support suggests big changes are ahead. The Indiana Daily Insight has the following excerpt from Lugar's speech:

Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world,” and suggesting that “The prospects that the current 'surge' strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic political debate.” He adds that “the strident, polarized nature of that debate increases the risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interests in the Middle East. Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of United States national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world.

The current debate on Iraq in Washington has not been conducive to a thoughtful revision of our Iraq policy. Our debate is being driven by partisan political calculations and understandable fatigue with bad news -- including deaths and injuries to Americans. We have been debating and voting on whether to fund American troops in Iraq and whether to place conditions on such funding. We have contemplated in great detail whether Iraqi success in achieving certain benchmarks should determine whether funding is approved or whether a withdrawal should commence. I would observe that none of this debate addresses our vital interests any more than they are addressed by an unquestioned devotion to an ill-defined strategy of so-called “staying the course” in Iraq.

In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.

I do not come to this conclusion lightly, particularly given that General Petraeus will deliver a formal report in September on his efforts to improve security. The interim information we have received from General Petraeus and other officials has been helpful and appreciated. I do not doubt the assessments of military commanders that there has been some progress in security. More security improvements in the coming months may be achieved. We should attempt to preserve initiatives that have shown promise, such as engaging Sunni groups that are disaffected with the extreme tactics and agenda of Al Qaeda in Iraq. But three factors – the political
fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military, and the constraints of our own domestic political process -- are converging to make it almost impossible for the United States to engineer a stable, multi-sectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable time frame…

[T]he issue before us is whether we will refocus our policy in Iraq on realistic assessments of what can be achieved, and on a sober review of our vital interests in the Middle East. Given the requirements of military planners, the stress of our combat forces, and our own domestic political timeline, we are running out of time to implement a thoughtful Plan B that attempts to protect our substantial interests in the region, while downsizing our military presence in Iraq.

We need to recast the geo-strategic reference points of our Iraq policy. We need to be preparing for how we will array U.S. forces in the region to target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict, and generally reassure friendly governments that the United States is committed to Middle East security. Simultaneously, we must be aggressive and creative in pursuing a regional dialogue that is not limited to our friends. We cannot allow fatigue and frustration with our Iraq policy to lead to the abandonment of the
tools and relationships we need to defend our vital interests in the Middle East.

If we are to seize opportunities to preserve these interests, the Administration and Congress must suspend what has become almost knee-jerk political combat over Iraq. Those who offer constructive criticism of the surge strategy are not defeatists, any more than those who warn against a precipitous withdrawal are militarists. We need to move Iraq policy beyond the politics of the moment and re-establish a broad consensus on the role of the United States in the Middle East. If we do that, the United States has the diplomatic influence and economic and military power to strengthen mutually beneficial policies that could enhance security and prosperity throughout the region. I pray that the President and the Congress will move swiftly and surely to achieve that goal.


Wilson46201 said...

A nice speech - which George W. Bush will stubbornly ignore. Soothing words which will not compel this Administration to change a damn thing. The only power Congress has is the power of the purse - political suasion has no purchase on this White House.

Wilson46201 said...

"However, [Lugar spokesman Andy] Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals."

Anonymous said...

Lugar was chairman of the august Foreign Relations Committee for six years--and he squandered his Methodist values and bully puplit.

For that entire term as chair, Lugar said nary a negative word about Bush's insane foreignpolicy. He collaborated often with that unidicted co-sonspiraotr, Condi Rice, to lend a more sdft, humane voice to this amdinistration's foreign policy,.

Which wasn, and is, utter nonsense.

Power under-used is sometimes more harmful than abuse of power.

Gary R. Welsh said...

On that score, anon. 6:12, I couldn't distinguish Bayh's record on Iraq as being any different than Lugar's record. Bayh supported the administration every step of the way, along with many other Democrats who suddenly had a life-changing experience on the road to Damascus, or in this case, Baghdad.

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

I am glad to see that Lugar finally took a step in the direction of breaking with the president; however, his speech really didn't say anything that outstanding.

Ask yourself, did he say anything that others haven't been saying all along? The value of the speech is simply that Lugar took the initiative to give it openly on the floor of the Senate. However, the only impact this speech will have is to show Bush that Lugar's seemingly steadfast support is waning.

Anonymous said...

I re-listened to his speech on a CSPAN rerun last night. Honest to God, I fell asleep. And he looked like a little old hunched-over man.

In the rarified air of the Millionaire's Club that is the US Senate, this speech moved mountains. Incredible.

Lugar had the opportunity for four Chairmanship years to weigh in. He did not.

Sen. Bayh's record on the senseless and deadly/expensive war was not the title of your post. If it had been, there's plenty of room to criticize. In Evan's little finger, there is not the foreign policy gravitas that exists in Lugar.

Nothing in Iraq has substantially changed, from earlier this year. Except we've now shipped an extra 25,000 troops over there, and extended the tours of those already there.

While the suits debate language and who can verbally one-up the other one, since W escalated this war, an extra 200 or so American GIs have been killed.

Lugar had a responsiblilty to speak out earlier. And why couldn't Lugar have said the same thing in June 2006? It could've helped end it sooner. But, of course, we had an election last year, and Senate control was in the balance.

His silence earlier compels the observation: to those whom much is given, much more is expected.

He's tardy. Deadly expensive tardy.