The resolution condemning the troop surge in Iraq, passed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last Thursday, is only another unfortunate exhibition of politics compromising the promotion of the nation’s best interest. The resolution, which has no actual legislative power, displays the inherent conflict between electoral politics and good policy perfectly. As politicians, senators must be self-serving and act with constant regard to their prospects for reelection. As senators, these politicians have been endowed with the responsibility of protecting and promoting the interests of their constituents and the nation. To exercise that responsibility, they are to utilize the abundance of information at their disposal to make informed, often difficult decisions with primary consideration for the nation’s long-term stability, security and prosperity. Though not ostensibly inconsistent, it is in such actions as Thursday’s resolution passage when these objectives work against each other.
Although political capital can be jeopardized by changes of heart or admission of wrongdoing, the country suffers as a result of a politicos’ stubbornness to change positions or admit misspeaking. Politics likewise does not encourage long-range thinking. For politicians, even when exposed to information and expertise that guarantee the benefit of a policy or position in the long-term, decisions to support that policy or position become unlikely if it is currently unpopular – even if the unpopularity is merely a reflection of misinformation or misunderstanding. Six-year terms discourage long-term thinking. If the positive effects of a legislative change, vote or proposition cannot be seen in time for the next election, there is unfortunately little incentive to support it or even bring it consciousness as a source of dialogue.
Members of Congress who are too responsive to what the science of polling indicates, usually have the most politically profitable positions. However, allowing those indications to have so much weight is often dangerous. The senators in the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led by Sen. Joe Biden Jr., D-Del., and acting in accordance with popular sentiment, have voted with their names and egos to pass a resolution that does not do anything. They have voted to express their contention that a troop surge is the wrong prescription for Iraq without offering a better one. They have attached their names and egos to a prediction for America’s impending failure in Iraq. As a result, were the U.S. to succeed in Iraq, they would be made to look bad, wrong even. Politicians do not like looking bad and they especially do not like being wrong. Politicians prefer to look good and be right. Thus, we can deduce that by investing themselves in a formal declaration that the troop deployment that will ensue will not be successful, these senators will now be rooting for the U.S. to fail in Iraq. Worse, they will want a result that they can affect the outcome of. Members of Congress have a tremendous amount of sway in what happens in Iraq: The effects that they are able to exert on popular support for the war, the troops and the enemy is immeasurable.
This kind of political posturing usually has negative effects, but rarely are the stakes as high as in this case. The Democratic political strategy is brilliant; the Democratic strategy for America is pathetic, ill conceived and back-handed. Their strategy for Iraq: nonexistent. We know the Dems are opposed to the war in Iraq. Lucky for them, they now represent the majority in a body endowed by the Constitution with the “power of the purse.” Thus, if they are opposed to our continued presence there, it is in their power to defund the war. They will not, however, because they do not want to appear as if they are not supportive of our troops. Yet, when U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus responded to a question by Sen. Joseph Lieberman as to whether or not a resolution condemning the troop surge would have a negative effect on troop morale, the general responded in the affirmative. The resolution passed with a majority of 12-9 in Committee and appears to have majority support in the Senate chamber as well. Who’s not supportive? So, the Dems will not stop the war that they are constantly criticizing and they do not agree with sending more troops despite the recommendation of Gen. Petraeus, who was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services only days earlier. Instead, they will pass resolution after resolution attempting to demonstrate their alignment with popular domestic sentiment, successfully emboldening the enemy, undermining the authority of military commanders and the spirit of the troops, while rendering a once “united front” fractured and weak.