by Robert Herold & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & peaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria has drawn the anticipated reaction from the Bush administration and congressional Republicans. We're told that she had no business going; that she is undermining the president, who is in charge of foreign policy; that she is emboldening "the enemy" and sending the wrong message to terrorists. Have I left anything out?
I too have a problem with the congressional leadership mucking around in the foreign policy arena. And yes, the Constitution does delegate power over foreign policy to the president. Diplomacy does rest with the executive branch. Having said this, it really isn't news that congressional delegations go abroad. Coincident with Pelosi's trip was the truly embarrassing sojourn to Iraq taken by the ever more diminished John McCain, who declared that Bush's "surge" is working. He arrived at that conclusion after he had walked safely through a market with armed guards on all sides and with a Blackhawk helicopter hovering just above. And if Pelosi was no doubt undercutting Bush's credibility, McCain was doing just the opposite (but very badly). Both were mucking around in foreign policy. What else is new?
Bush, now faced with a funding bill that demands a troop redeployment and no doubt miffed by Pelosi's trip, unsurprisingly reverted to demagoguery. He all but declared Pelosi a traitor. And as for the Democrats who sent him this funding bill with a caveat, well, he accuses them of not supporting the troops -- i.e., their patriotism too must be doubted.
Might we first jettison Bush's euphemisms? Democrats believe that the best way to support the troops is get them out of harm's way. And even more to the point, the "support the troops" mantra is coming from a man who failed to assure that the troops were equipped in the first place; refused to anticipate the need for more troops, in the military and on the ground; and has since failed miserably to care for them when they returned home.
Second, about Pelosi undercutting the President's foreign policy strategy? He has no foreign policy strategy to undercut, except, that is, "stay the course." And, however the President tries to dress things up, when you peel back all the hoopla about surges and the like, what he continues to insist upon is that Americans "stay the course."
And what does "stay the course" mean? Well, regarding Syria (and no doubt Iran too) it means continue to support the president's policy to "isolate" both countries, all the while upping the warlike rhetoric. But the American public just voted not to stay the course. And if Bush doesn't want to be influenced by election returns, maybe he could at least listen to his own study group. You know, that Iraq Study Group, the one headed up by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, the former his father's Secretary of State and the latter one of the most respected legislators on the Hill. This study group urged contact with both Iran and Syria. They were critical of Bush's isolate-the-bastard approach.
If Bush is frustrated by Pelosi, I dare say that her trip underscores her frustration with him. It was as if she was saying: Look, Mr. President, you have been thoroughly discredited; you have no more support for your so-called foreign policy. It has brought only disaster. You lost the election on this issue. And if that wasn't enough to cause you to rethink things, you have also been advised to change course by those whose opinion you sought. And if all this isn't bad news enough for Americans, it now seems highly probable that your Vice President is at least borderline psychotic.
But still you won't consider changes. Not real changes. You actually continue to use your discredited "Mission Accomplished" rhetoric. You tell us that Iraq isn't experiencing a civil war, rather that the country has been plunged into terrorism by Al Qaeda -- which has always been operating in Iraq, right from the get-go. Oh yes, if we don't "win," we "lose." We seek "victory." You continue to gloss over the violence in Iraq. You seek to put a happy face where none is appropriate. In the meantime, you have managed to bring the military to the brink of collapse.
And, oh yes, about your so-called isolation policy? Where did that come from? Well, we know, don't we? Some junior birdman speechwriter of yours thought he had come up with an ever-so-cute line. You remember, the "axis of evil" line. And you chose to haul this one out at just the same time that Iranian intelligence was helping the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Wasn't that a brilliant move.
If the president is already playing the demagogue card and here we are only in April, what might we expect to hear from him toward the end of the summer, when it has become clear that the "surge" isn't working? More of the same? "Stay the course"? "Support the troops"? "Patriots don't cut and run"? "Don't embolden terrorists"?
In the meantime, there is much to do. What will a redeployment -- which will come sooner or later -- look like? How can the army begin to be rebuilt? Nor is our strategic course clear. The Kurds don't want Americans to leave. Do we redeploy there? Playing the demagogue wastes time while making it ever more unlikely that anything the president proposes will be taken as genuine.