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Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves

By Scott D. Gillette
web posted November 6, 2006

Many Republican strategists have come up with different explanations and rationalizations for why Republicans will lose at least the House of Representatives. Some commentators attribute the oncoming GOP losses to historical trends. Other conservative strategists proclaim that this is just a temporary setback. Jeffrey Lord wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "No matter where you look…. the conservative future is not merely here, it is the future itself…No deviant Congressman, no bad polls or a lost election can stop this."

But there's no denying that the Republicans will lose the independent vote on November 7th, thereby almost guaranteeing their minority status. Many Republicans are in complete denial about these circumstances, let alone understand why it is occurring.
Sure, Republican leaders have become ideologically rudderless on domestic issues, and have abandoned the principles of limited government. The corruption scandals have been too damning to ignore. Finally, the failures of Katrina viscerally haunt the Bush Administration far more than most people recognize.
But more than anything else, it is the debacle in Iraq that will cause the Democratic landslide.

The United States went to war in Iraq because of two distinct claims: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein was affiliated with al-Qaida. History will demonstrate that the current administration knew that there was no evidence to support these two claims, and there was enormous evidence to refute them. Nevertheless, the Administration adopted Leo Strauss' notion, parroted by the neo-conservatives, that the people must be kept in the dark about certain things, in order for leaders to do what's "right". 

Well, America was made for better things. We cannot spread liberty and freedom by force. To argue otherwise means that one prizes power over the ideals that make liberty possible in the first place.

Moreover, you cannot proclaim the moral high ground if you are attacking others. After 9/11, many in the Administration believed that this era, like Winston Churchill's era, would be their finest hour. But you can't be Churchillian when you are attacking others, only when you are being attacked. This is something Cheney and company should have known in 2002. 

There is no way that the current Iraqi policy is sustainable. Saying over and over that we'll be in Iraq until we're victorious was never a strategy. It's not even a realistic hope right now, and can't be obtained by any conceivable strategy. The recent turn in rhetoric by the Bush Administration about setting a timetable ignores just how dire the situation has become. Even if we added another 200,000 troops to the field, the insurgency against the U.S., and the endless conflicts within and between the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds would continue. 

Republicans must recognize two things. First, it was a profound mistake for the United States to invade Iraq. Any invasion of another state based on preemption is a repudiation of collective security among nations, and our most important values. Second, the Republican Party should vow never to invade another nation again on the doctrine of preemption. Our security can never be obtained through violence alone.

Former Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan had his own falling out with the GOP and Bush administration, although for somewhat different reasons. This disenchantment led him to write The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back. He asks, in the beginning of the book, "What happened to the GOP? The conservatism I grew up around was a combination of lower taxes, less government spending, freer trade, freer markets, individual liberty, personal responsibility and a strong anti-Communist foreign policy." Sullivan went on to describe his heroes: Thatcher, Reagan, Solzhenitsyn, Havel, Hayek and Orwell

These figures are from the Cold War, when the United States faced a totalitarian vision of world domination. Times are different now. The vision of al-Qaida relies far less on brute force, and more on winning the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world. Deterrence of al-Qaida sometimes requires force, as the noble campaign against the Taliban government of Afghanistan did. (By the way, Iraq has compromised our efforts in Afghanistan from the very beginning.) But ill-conceived military campaigns can unleash the very forces that we are trying to suppress, which is precisely what has happened in Iraq. In the War on Terror, our moral example is a force multiplier.  

Some party activists would say that this column is designed to depress GOP turnout, and should be ignored on that basis. But the American people will wield their judgment. The results on November 7th will be a referendum on the War on Iraq, and on that basis, the GOP will lose big. They deserve nothing less.

What kind of country are we? Are we an imperial power that worships power above all else? Or are we a nation based on liberty, which by definition means that we respect the sovereignty of other nations, unless they violate ours first? Are we going to spend the next half-century invading other nations that we know nothing about? What good is a global empire if we lose our soul?

I have asked different Republicans whether it is possible to be a good Republican who supports the party's broad agenda, but opposes the Iraq War. I have yet to hear anyone say that yes, you can be a Republican and reject this war. I don't think it's possible anymore. I welcome any candid assessments. ESR

© Scott D. Gillette, 2006


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