Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Biden Spin

Democratic Senator Joseph Biden was on the Newshour on 9/11. His interview was somewhat odd. Being a partisan player, he wanted put forward the claim that any apparent success of the surge was pure blind luck. The primary theme of Biden's argument was that George Bush's the Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had a single minded focus on creating and Iraq with a "strong central government." Biden's brave new proposal was to have a Federal form of government.

He states his premise early in the presentation with the statement:

They're not willing to make a stark political change, that is, to seek a fundamentally different outcome than a strong central government.

Oddly, Biden concludes with the sentence:

"And everybody forgets their constitution says -- I think it's article 114 -- "We are a decentralized federal system."

Biden's premise that Bush and the-powers-that-be have a single minded focus on a strong central government is negated by the observation that these same powers-that-be wrote Federalism into the Iraqi Constitution.

The interview was interesting in that Biden's need to put a partisan spin on the issue created a situation where he negated himself. The partisan spin seems to be that dimwitted Republicans are for Nazi style strong central governments while enlightened Democrats value the balance of a democratic federalism. The apparent successes of the troop surge was the result of a flip flop in administrations core beliefs.

If it were not for the partisan spin, Biden would simply have had the affirmative argument that focusing on the needs of the people in the provinces seems to have had a positive effect. One might also conclude that our previous efforts may have focused too much attention on the central government.

The problem with partisan politics is that it always concentrates attention on who has power and not on what they are doing.

This was almost a really good interview. Beyond the arguments about whether the war was just or injust, Iraq is stuck in a situation where they have to find a way forward. There is a good argument that Federalism might be more promising at this moement. We have to concentrate on the arguments and not on partisan spin.

BTW, while Biden was trying to put forth his spin, Jim Lehrer (the interviewer) coxed Biden into accusing Patreaus of spinning.

I watched several of the Patreaus and Crocker interviews. Patraeus and Crocker were clearly arguing the case for the surge. I believe that arguing the case for or against an idea is something completely different from spinning. Spinning is part of a partisan game where you try to present information in ways that rewards one's friends and punishes one's enemies.

It seems to me that Patraeus and Crocker did a great job of focusing attention on to what was actually happening on the ground and away from the politics. The Biden interview seemed too eager to focus political blame on Bush. I would classify the various Patraeus and Crocker interviews as an example of arguing for an idea, and Biden's interview as an example of spin.


Charles D said...

I didn't see this and frankly don't find Biden all that interesting as a candidate or a foreign policy analyst.

It seems totally disingenuous for American politicians, of whatever stripe, to be talking about what the Iraqi government ought to be like or what it ought to do. It ought to be like the Iraqis want it and do what they want. Unfortunately due to the US invasion and its aftermath, they still do not have a rational mechanism to voice their political desires.

I also find the entire focus of the discussion from both political parties to be wrongheaded. Everyone seems fixed on the idea that since we "broke" Iraq, it's up to us to fix it. I read an great analogy this morning on this. If you go into a store and break several items of value, they do not ask you to sit down in the store and try to glue them all back together, they send you out of the store and make you pay the replacement cost.

That's the only option we have in Iraq. Not to stay and try to "reduce violence" or tell the Maliki government what to do, but to leave and pay reparations for what we have done.

To be clear, I'm not advocating a sudden exodus of US troops and abandonment of the country - I'm talking about a rapid but safe withdrawal and diplomatic engagement led by the UN and involving Iraq's neighbors. That is what we should be discussing, not the "surge" or the "benchmarks" or any of the other idiotic political face-saving devices the 2 parties have devised to avoid cleaning up this godawful mess.

y-intercept said...

Unfortunately, the history of countries being force to pay reparations is as bad as all of the other bad ideas on the dust heap of history. In most cases the reparations end up supporting another despotic regime.

We are in a hole. The future hope is to get to the second election and to use that as the spring board back out of the hole.

BTW, you do realize that Afghanistan and Iraq are tied together. We cannot withdraw from Iraq without simultaneously withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Charles D said...

I agree we are in a hole, but there is no reason to wait for the next election to get out - except for the stubbornness of the Decider and the wimpy games being played by the Congressional Democrats. Either of them can start the withdrawal, they just don't have the political will.

As for Iraq and Afghanistan being tied together - I would love to hear your rationale for that statement. I would agree we are screwing up both countries and accomplishing nothing in either of them so leaving both is a good idea, but we could remain in Kabul protecting the world's heroin supplies even if we leave Iraq.

y-intercept said...

Getting to a second election delegitimizes the revolution.

Of course, the left still believes in the revolution, which is why it is unified in trying to prevent a second election from happening.

Charles D said...

What revolution are you talking about?