Also, Introducing the New Kingmaker in American Politics!
What comes next in Iraq? Here are some straight-line extrapolations. Let’s move beyond the obvious good bets: collapse of the current government structure in Iraq, civil war, and continued slow erosion of US popular support. All these were discussed at length in my November 30 Forecasts.
What’s new, forecast-wise?
I. The descent of Iraq into civil war
This will crash American public support for the Iraq War. In this respect, the bombing of the al-Askariya shrine was the TET offensive of the Iraq War.
No more slow erosion, but instead the development of a consensus that our troops should come home now. There is no longer any point to the War, and our troops no longer have a role – unless we wish to incur high casualties putting them on the streets as peacemakers. Not likely. Note that after bombing of the al-Askariya shrine, we pulled our troops back to their forts so that the Iraq people could riot and kill without our meddling.
II. Political effects of failure
Unless the Bush Administration moves quickly to withdraw our troops, its support will evaporate as congressional Republicans maneuver to survive the November elections.
Our failure in Iraq ends the dreams of the neo-conservatives and advocates of a “Pax America” More precisely, they can still dream but nobody will pay attention.
Francis Fukuyama’s op-ed “After Neoconservatism” deserves close attention (New York Times, 19 February 2006). It opens with one of the greatest understatements since Emperor Hirohito told the Japanese people “the war situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage”:
As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly … But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point.
With tremendous intellectual honesty – rare in America today – he admits that:
But it is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy “realists” in the tradition of Henry Kissinger … Indeed, the effort to promote democracy around the world has been attacked as an illegitimate activity both by people on the left like Jeffrey Sachs and by traditional conservatives like Pat Buchanan …
Those whom Walter Russell Mead labels Jacksonian conservatives — red-state Americans whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in the Middle East — supported the Iraq war because they believed that their children were fighting to defend the United States against nuclear terrorism, not to promote democracy.
The drive for the Iraq War resulted from an alliance of the neo-cons and “Pax America” advocates, both intellectually active but of little political power. The alliance with Jacksonian conservatives made the war possible. Now that’s so much burnt powder. Discussions on how the war could have been waged will go in the books next to similar arguments about Churchill’s Dardanelle’s gambit.
None of the four major streams of American foreign policy will soon send our troops abroad on an idealistic crusade.
- Hamiltonians, most concerned with American economic well-being;
- Wilsonian, strive to promulgate American values;
- Jeffersonians, focused on protecting American democracy in a perilous world;
- Jacksonian, committed to preserving American interests and honor
Nor will our allies uncritically accept our intelligence or our leadership into the next war. We owe much to the neo-cons and “Pax America” advocates. They revitalized thinking about America’s Grand Strategy and brought it to the central place it deserves in our debates.
But it’s time to move on. Fukuyama must give up his dreams. We must file Thomas Barnett’s brilliant books in the library’s History Section, next to those about Japan’s “Southern Strategy” for WWII. For more on this, at the end are links to my articles outlining A Grand Strategy for America.
III. The key factor: how will the Democrats react?
So far their leadership has been cautious on Iraq and Homeland Security issues. Despite intense pressure from their leftist core, they have supported the war – few in Congress are more gung ho than Hillary – and, for example, voted to renew the Patriot Act.
The temptation to change these positions is strong, with so many opportunities to press the Bush Administration as it weakens. Especially if the polls show that opposition to the Iraq War helps them win in November. And if they win, they can unleash their atomic bomb …
IV. The Impeachment of President Bush
This might be an irresistible treat for the Democrats. Not only sweet retaliation for the impeachment of President Clinton, but also an opportunity to paralyze the Bush Administration and begin the 2008 campaign on favorable terms. The Democrats can be re-cast as the anti-war party, the civil liberties party – a return to its historic roots, with electoral victory as the reward. It does not get better than this.
Imagine the consequences of this scenario. Among other things, this would create a new Kingmaker in American, the man who could change the shape of American politics for several generations.
V. Usama Bin Laden
In this scenario, a large terror strike by Al-Qaeda – or anyone claiming to be them, or even distantly related to them – would have incalculable consequences. It would wipe the Democratic Party from American game board. Finding a Democrat in post-strike America might be searching for a snake in Ireland, or a Nazi in 1947 Berlin (this does not posit any relationship or similarity between Democrats, snakes, and Nazis – it’s just an analogy).
Our tolerance for multi-culturalism is already fraying. Another strike might push America over the tipping point, into some radically different and less pleasant configuration. The Democratic leadership knows all this, of course. That’s why the attack on Bush is led by dispensables like Howard Dean and Al Gore – not John Kerry or Hillary.
Much rides on the ability of the ability of the Democratic leadership to resist the pressure from their base and the temptation of victory.
For more information about the Iraq War
- My posts about the war
- Important articles about the Iraq War
- Our goals and benchmarks, and reports about progress towards them