Friday, December 08, 2006

The Iraq War and the 2008 Candidates

There is an interesting article about the 2008 Presidential race with regard to the Iraq war over at Senator Hagel is one of only two potential 2008 candidates that come away form the analysis in a positive light. Here are some excerpts from it:
What's the best way to judge a potential president? It might be to look at the hard decisions a candidate has made in the past. And for several of the probable and possible 2008 contenders, the October 2002 vote in the Senate on the resolution granting George W. Bush the authority to attack Iraq whenever he deemed fit was the most difficult call they had to make. It certainly was the most consequential. All of the current senatorial presidential wannabes who were in office then—Democrats Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Christopher Dodd, Evan Bayh, and Republicans John McCain, Chuck Hagel and Sam Brownback—voted for the bill. So, too, did former Sen. John Edwards. (Sen. Barack Obama, who opposed the war, was not yet in the Senate.) But there were differences in how each approached and explained his or her vote. So let's go back through the dusty pages of the Congressional Record, and see how these legislators handled this tough task—and helped land the United States in the biggest foreign policy blunder of recent decades..

Chuck Hagel. Of all the senators eyeing the White House in 2008, this Nebraskan was the only one to express deep reservations about the resolution—while still voting for it. “America—including the Congress—and the world, must speak with one voice about Iraqi disarmament, as it must continue to do so in the war on terrorism,” Hagel said in explaining his vote. But he was prescient: “If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions. The future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is also an open question. Some of my colleagues and some American analysts now speak authoritatively of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, and how Iraq can be a test case for democracy in the Arab world. How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism and a bit more humility.” He added, “Imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq's reconstruction. No small task.”

Hagel was disappointed in the discourse within the Senate: “We should spend more time debating the cost and extent of this commitment, the risks we may face in military engagement with Iraq, the implications of the precedent of United States military action for regime change and the likely character and challenges of a post-Saddam Iraq. We have heard precious little from the President, his team, as well as from this Congress, with a few notable exceptions, about these most difficult and critical questions.” And he cautioned humility: “I share the hope of a better world without Saddam Hussein, but we do not really know if our intervention in Iraq will lead to democracy in either Iraq or elsewhere in the Arab world.” Bottom line: Hagel feared the resolution would lead to a war that would go badly but didn't have the guts to say no to the leader of his party.

I can't say that I agree with that last line. Senator Hagel saw what COULD happen if his (and others) advice was not heeded, rather than he was unwilling to stand up to the President. We've seen since then that Senator Hagel has the courage to speak out against the President on Iraq.

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