Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Taking a break between Family Weekend and piles of homework.

"The Good, the Bad, the Ugly" by David Brooks (in the October 18, 2003 New York Times)

When it comes to the future of Iraq, there's not just one Democratic Party; there are three.

First, there are the Nancy Pelosi Democrats. These Democrats voted against Paul Bremer's $87 billion plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. The essence of their case is that the Bush administration is too corrupt and incompetent to reconstruct Iraq. If Bush is for it, they're against it.

Their hatred for Bush is so dense, it's hard for them to see through it to the consequences of their vote. But if Pelosi's arguments had carried the day, our troops in Iraq would be reading this morning about the death of the Bremer plan and the ruination of our efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Saddam Hussein would be jubilant in Pelosi's Iraq. He has long argued that America is a decadent country that will buckle at the first sign of trouble. If the Pelosi Democrats had won yesterday's vote, the Saddam Doctrine would be enshrined in every terrorist cave and dictator's palace around the world: kill some Americans and watch the empire buckle.

A few days ago the Pelosi Democrats came up with a fig leaf alternative to the Bremer plan, which would have reduced U.S. control of reconstruction and shifted power to the World Bank. When that plan went nowhere, the Pelosi Democrats were faced with a choice: trust Americans or choke off the funds. They voted to choke off the funds.

And so in Pelosi's Iraq, there would be little money for children's hospitals, jails, clean water and schools. In Pelosi's Iraq, everyone would begin preparing for the post-U.S. power vacuum. The Kurds would rush to independence, the Sunnis would stock up on weapons, and the Shiites would call in Iran to help them in the coming civil war. The dream of an Iraqi constitution would die in its crib.

For the roster of the Pelosi Democrats, look at those who voted against the Bremer plan. Some names are obvious: Dennis Kucinich, Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer. But there are some names you wouldn't expect to see on that list: John Kerry and John Edwards. France, Russia and Syria don't oppose the Bremer plan, but the Pelosi Democrats are to the left of Bashar al-Assad.

Next we come to the Evan Bayh Democrats, named after the Indiana senator. These Democrats can see past their dislike of the president. They would appropriate some money for Iraqi reconstruction. But siding with the anti-foreign-aid Republicans, they'd turn the rest of the aid into loans. The Iraqi people have been raped, tortured and left bloodied on the floor. The Bayh Democrats say to them: Here's a credit card. Go buy yourself some treatment, and you can pay us back later.

The Bayh Democrats are centrist but not visionary, and they seem to worry more about adding an extra $10 billion to the deficit than about the future of the Middle East. They may have read memos from the Democratic pollsters on the unpopularity of the $87 billion plan, but they don't seem to have read about the Versailles Treaty and what happens when strong nations impose punitive burdens on proud ones.

Finally we come to the Cantwell Democrats. This group could be named after Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman or Dick Gephardt, but Maria Cantwell, the Washington senator, sits at Scoop Jackson's old desk on the Senate floor. The Cantwell Democrats are dismayed with how the Bush administration has handled the postwar period. They'd like to see the rich pay a bigger share of the reconstruction cost. But they knew yesterday's vote wasn't about George Bush. It was about doing what's right for the Iraqi people and what's right, over the long term, for the American people. These Democrats supported the aid package, and were willing to pay a price to give the Iraqis their best shot at a decent future. This week, Gephardt, who has to win over Iowa liberals to have any shot at the White House, is the bravest man in Washington.

Those are the three Democratic visions — the good, the bad and the ugly. Right now the Pelosi wing of the party is dominant, and the Cantwell wing is beleaguered. So this is a party teetering on the brink of full-bore liberal isolationism.

Who is going to pull it back? Probably not Wesley Clark. The Clark Democrats are actually the fourth category in the party: the ones who are too mealy-mouthed to take a stand either way.

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