Same Country, Different Worlds
In case you were unable to catch the two Exchange shows this week, I recently completed an in-depth look at Democratic and Republican presidential candidate positions on the Iraq War. For me, the exercise underscored the starkness of the choice that American voters will face at the polls in November 2008. While these two political parties share responsibility for the governance of our country, their competing interpretations of the Iraq War evince divergent worldviews with real implications for stability in the region and for American foreign policy, in general. At the necessary risk of simplifying these competing narratives a bit, here is my take on the two groups of candidates:
In general, Democratic candidates claim that the Iraq War has been a misadventure, distracting us from fully engaging Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and resulting in a dangerous drain on our precious human and financial capital. While they credit (sometimes grudgingly) the surge for reducing the level of daily violence in Iraq, Democrats see the central government’s failure thus far to secure national reconciliation in its path, as a critical sign that the policy has not worked as intended. Their foreign policy focus going forward is on the process of disentangling the United States from the engagement.
In contrast, Republican candidates (excluding Ron Paul) argue that Iraq, a former state sponsor of terrorism, is one front in a broader global war on terror that increasingly identifies a nuclear Iran as the focal point of this battle. While they are equally critical of Iraq’s national government, Republicans are optimistic that the surge is creating a genuine opportunity for the country to take its next steps toward stability and democratic governance, provided that the process is not short-circuited by Democratic timetables for withdrawal. In the meantime, they are increasingly turning their foreign policy attention to Iran.
So, voters will be left to sift through these competing partisan narratives, perhaps weighing the available options in light of their own ideological prejudices, but also no doubt motivated by a genuine desire to leave neither a humanitarian crisis, nor a destabilized region, in the wake of whatever comes next.

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