The Durbin Peace Plan

March 20, 2006

Democrats are constantly accusing Republicans of blindly defending President Bush’s Iraq War policies, but how about their steadfast refusal to make leaders of their own party accountable for their ridiculously irresponsible positions on the war and national security matters generally?

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, writing after the 2004 election, complained that the “red states” re-elected President Bush “despite an utterly incompetent war performance in Iraq and a stagnant economy … This was not an election. This was station identification.”

Democrats are still saying the very same thing. While I strongly reject their premise, I believe we ought to turn the tables on them and ask how they can support the whining leaders in their party who have abandoned any pretense of sober judgment concerning the war.

A revealing exchange occurred on “Fox News Sunday” when Chris Wallace, interviewing Sen. Dick Durbin, read a quote from Zbigniew Brzezinski, former President Carter’s national security adviser. Brzezinski said, “Democratic leaders have been silent or evasive. They have not offered an alternative to the war in Iraq. It’s easy to criticize.”

Wallace then pressed Durbin to explain the Democrats’ plan for Iraq. Anyone who still maintains the Democrats have a plan after witnessing their utter failure to produce anything remotely resembling one for the past three years ought to read this Fox News transcript.

Durbin first tried to pass off the question by offering only criticism of President Bush. Commendably, Wallace would have nothing of it, saying, “Well, that’s criticism, sir. What is your plan?”

Durbin, after promising to “be very specific,” proceeded to offer an embarrassingly vague three-point “plan.” He said Democrats support the “bipartisan” Senate approach to: 1) establish 2006 as “a year of transition, where the Iraqis take control of their own security and defense;” 2) put Iraqis on notice that “they have to form a government that embraces all of the factions within Iraq so that we can see finally a government of unity leading to some sort of progress for the people of Iraq;” 3) demand accountability from President Bush, by making him report our progress in Iraq every three months.

With respect, this tripe wouldn’t be taken seriously in a high-school debate. The third point cannot reasonably be considered part of a plan at all; merely a reporting requirement. And, President Bush is already trying to accomplish the first two points, but they are broad goals, not specific elements of a strategic plan.

As for point one, everyone knows the administration has been trying feverishly to train Iraqi security forces to take over the primary role of defending Iraq. But neither Durbin nor any other Democrats offered specifics to expedite the transition because even they know it is a matter for the generals to handle, not officious, micromanaging politicians.

Indeed, their chest-pounding about training Iraqi troops faster reminds me of the weaselly President Charles Logan on the phenomenal TV series “24,” demanding, with all the authority of the late “Barney Fife,” that CTU “find those terrorists right now before they release their nerve gas.” Like the Democrats, there is an inverse relationship between the shrillness of Logan’s demands and the rationality and constructiveness of those demands. Like the Democrats, Logan brings nothing to the table. He just criticizes and impedes those genuinely trying to protect America’s interests.

As for point two of the plan, President Bush clearly envisions Iraqis working together in the newly formed government. But he hasn’t issued threats in case of their noncompliance.

But how about Durbin? What does he propose we do if Iraqis don’t demonstrate the degree of unity that he and his fellow uniters demand? Precisely how would he suggest that we Americans compel greater sectarian harmony in the new government structure? Again, they offer nothing specific. In fact, what they offer doesn’t even rise to the level of vagueness. It’s just nothing. Nothing at all but more insultingly vacuous rhetoric.

Moving on, Durbin’s responses to Wallace’s questions about Sen. Feingold’s attempt to censure President Bush were equally revealing of the Democrats’ unfitness on national security matters.

First, he said Feingold’s frustration with the Republican Senate for not holding Bush accountable is what led to the censure resolution. Second, he admitted that they needed more information to determine whether the NSA surveillance program “violated the law.”

So here we have a leading Democratic senator refusing to condemn a like-minded colleague for trying to censure a president — an extremely serious act — for violating a law they don’t even know for sure was violated — all because they are frustrated with fellow legislators — not the president. Talk about a reckless transferal of hostility.

Isn’t it time for Democrats to demand more from their leaders?