Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wouldn't it be great ...

Wouldn't it be great if they actually talked?

Yahoo is running a news story (Bush, Democrats begin search for Iraq compromise) that suggests that Bush and the Democrats might actually talk about compromise on the war funding bill.

Back in January, I put forward the statement that the troop surge was a great idea since it provided a better framework for a debate on the future of Iraq than the post election blues that saw defeat and retreat as the only solution.

Unfortunately, the debate I hoped would happen in January never materialized. Both Democrats and Republicans simply entrenched. Rather than debating the troop surge, Bush just did it. Democrats responded by passing bills that were guaranteed to result in a veto.

Quite frankly, I think the problems of Iraq are a direct result of our inability to engage in real dialogue. In 2003, I felt that if we really looked at world threats, we would not have invaded Iraq. In 2003, Hussein was politically isolated. Sudan was a greater humanitarian crisis and Iran a greater strategic threat.

If we had engaged in the apropriate dialogue in 2003, I doubt we would have invaded Iraq.

This inability to engage in dialogue is not simply the result of Bush. It is result of the modern way of thinking. The neocons, after all, are people who use the techniques perfected by the left for causes of the right.

According to this new think, Pelosi, Reid and the left wing of the Democrats have a great deal to gain if they can keep dialogue from happening. The best path to the Democrats getting a full house (the Presidency and both Houses of Congress in 2008) is to keep Bush in a corner.

Keeping tensions high also will stifle the threat that the Blue Dog Democrats would pull the party toward the center.

On the Republican side, Bush and the neocons might be so entrenched in their notions of Machiavellian virtue that they might be incapable of dialogue. Their thick little skulls might be clinging to the illusion that the best way to win the 2008 election is for the Democrats to continue their swing to the left.

Political strategies aside, I think that our inability to engage in discourse is likely to lead to poor results.

As I stated in January, a proposal of troop surge was a great start for a debate. The fact that we did not debate the surge increased the likelihood of its failure. Since debate did not happen, we created a situation where the people pushed out of the debate were actively looking for ways to call the surge a failure. Quite frankly, I believe that our disunity feeds our opponents.

The way you reach unity is by talking. It would be wonderful if the parties actually started talking.


Scott Hinrichs said...

I don't know if it's ever worked that way since the ratification of the Constitution, when open and substantive debate helped carry the day in many statehouses. My study of history makes me think that the common model since then has been to play political chess, where the game is more important than the actual issues currently at the center of attention. There have been a few deviations from this, but only a few.

I'm not sure that lack of dialogue dooms something to certain failure. Most of the elements of FDR's New Deal passed through Congress in a matter of hours with virtually no debate whatsoever (since the newly minted Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress came directly on FDR's coattails). Yet most of the New Deal's elements are now deeply ingrained in American society. Conservatives grouse about these elements from time to time, even to this day, but never really do much about it.

I admit here that while consensus is important, one of the main reasons we don't have it is that we lack a crystal clear vision of what we're trying to achineve in Iraq.

Charles D said...

Bush, as usual, is beginning the "negotiation" by saying that he will never give in on the main request of the Democrats -- that he provide some exit strategy for this illegal and misbegotten war. As far as I can tell, the Dems are not entrenched in their position, but are unlikely to yield on their goals while Bush is unwilling on yield on his. Negotiation is a tit-for-tat process in which both sides have to be willing to compromise.

I don't see why you thought the troop surge was a "great start for a debate". We were already having the debate, and the American people were pretty clear about where they stood. All that's left is for their elected representatives to carry out the will of the people.

steve u. said...

I'm going to disagree w/ Scott (Reach Upward), though he usually ends up being right.

Political dialogue recently has taken a hard turn toward the distal extremes and policymakers/opinion leaders at the national level hardly can engage in civil conversation, much less political conversation. It is a cancer on the body politic, and it threatens to destroy us.

I am hopeful that the Internet will help moderate the conversation.

y-intercept said...

DL, part of the method is to select a starting point that stands outside what the other party would not consider. The starting point that Democrats want is that Bush declares the war lost, then declares that the war was illegal. After Bush pleas for an impeachment, he, Rumsfeld and Cheney would then report to The Hague for sentencing.

Choosing a starting point for a debate that is outside what others would even consider shuts down debate.

Once you know "the method", you can prevent debate from happening in all sorts of ways.

Bush has all sorts of tricks for stopping debate. I never liked the Bush methodology.

When you have a dysfunctional system where no communication takes place, it is nigh impossible to tell which side is to blame for the impasse. Often the people who look reasonable are the ones really doing the unreasonable things, often it is the other way around.

Reach, I think you are correct. There was a profound change in the intellectual climate of the US at the turn of the 19th century. The Founders of the US seemed to have distilled out the best parts of the enlightenment. When you look at the works of US intellectuals of the early 1800s, you see them having an intellectual love affair with Kant, Rousseau, Hobbes, Machiavelli, etc..

Our early intellectuals did a great deal of brain damage to our country in efforts to come up with justifications for slavery and the oppression of the Native Americans.

My parents did some work in this area. (The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking. They only put up a small portion of their work with the hopes that someone would be interested in publishing the whole work. The most interesting thing they did was to research the libraries of the founders. There were some very interesting things. For example, the founders seemed to prefer Xenophon to Plato.

Perhaps, after I finish fixing Community Color, I might write up a web site on my perspective of what happened. My perspective, BTW, is that everyone has a different perspective of the same reality.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Steve definitely has an inside track on political debate in the Utah Legislature. I can only offer an outsider's perspective.

Charles D said...

Y, I only wish the Democrats would start their negotiations where you suggest they are. Far from it. They are starting by funding the war and only asking for a reasonable timetable to end it. Bush has yet to yield on anything.

That's really the main problem with the Democrats. They don't really believe deeply in what they say and are so wishy-washy and eager to please the media and their corporate supporters that their starting position is already halfway to the Republican side.

This of course, is an obvious sign of weakness and one the Republicans are always ready to use to their advantage.