Huffpost Politics

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

John Bruhns Headshot

The Iraq Factor in This Election Cycle

Posted: Updated:

This November, if you want out of Iraq, vote blue. If you want to stay, vote red. That is how the Democrats and Republicans are framing the debate. However, as much as we would like it to be that black and white, sophomoric, and simplistic -- it just isn't so.

Nowadays Americans don't care about political slogans. Instead, they want results. The Iraq war has caused the political opinions of the American people to become so diverse that it is too difficult to predict how this election cycle will unfold -- word to the wise for candidates who think their election/reelection is a sure thing.

I have no situational awareness regarding what it is like on the ground in Iraq since 2004. Therefore, I can't speak intelligently about what really happened in Basra and Sadr city last week (just an example). However, politicians feel a necessity to pontificate about how they are the authorities on the situation -- and that justifies (for them) their belief in deserving your vote.

It seems that every time violence spikes in Iraq, a Democratic politician gets to be the "I told you so" guy. If violence and death show signs of decline, a Republican politician affords himself the same courtesy. As if withdrawing from Iraq or staying the course is the "end all be all." Please, stop treating us like kids who don't know any better.

What gets forgotten in this process is at the end of the day the Iraqis are going to be the Iraqis. They're going to handle things their way. The future of Iraq was always up to them -- not us. It was never a reality for us to give them the keys to a new car called "modern sustainable democracy" to take for a test drive and not expect a crash. That is all based on the assumption this war/occupation is really about freedom and democracy, not oil, or our so-called "interests" in the region.

By removing Saddam we didn't cure the headache by cutting off the head. We created a volatile situation among multiple warring factions that want to kill us too -- cheers.

Did it ever occur to people who want to lead the "free world" that we are trying to moderate people who can't be moderated? Sunnis tribes vs Shia militias. Shias vs Shias. A permanent insurgency vs the Iraqi Army. PKK rebels attacking Turks in the north. Wait a minute -- Isn't it all Al-Qaeda?

Moving right along .....

Last week the Iranians negotiated the cease-fire between Maliki and al-Sadr. At the same time the President tells us we have to fight in Iraq to contain Iran. Are we forgetting the Iraqi government is in total cahoots with them? Birds of a feather flock I missing something? Or are we keeping our troops there to prevent a regional conflict? If so, I'm not sure we have the savvy to pull it off. That would assume that we have the moral authority to demonstrate our power and military might with sanctimony.

I'm not sure the Syrians, Saudis, or the Iranians want us to stop refereeing this mess. Most countries would prefer not to have bribery, alliances of convenience, pitting of sides, civil war, and wholesale destruction spilling over into their territory. Plus, Iraq's neighbors perceive it to be advantages for them if we continue expending our resources in Iraq.

When the ink dries on the history books chances are it will read that preemptive counter-insurgency wars isn't our cup of tea. Just because we prevailed in the past with large scale military operations and embargoes doesn't mean we can successfully fight an invisible enemy that continues to multiply.

Back to the upcoming elections ...

Democrats shouldn't campaign on how terrible the Iraq war is because the American people already get it. What they don't get is how we extract ourselves from the quagmire. That is the doozie.

In addition, candidates should be careful how they craft their plan and message because voters are insensitive & intolerant to disingenuous campaign themes these days. Remember that the Democratic party has held a majority of Congress for the past two years and there has been no change of course as promised in the 2006 election. The party base is more than disillusioned.

Sure, the Republican party destroyed itself with blind loyalty to Bush. However, Democrats can't assume they'll automatically get a "free ride" because they gave the Republicans enough rope to hang themselves. When the people spoke in 2006 and demanded action it wasn't intended to come in the form of complacency.

Lets keep in mind that many lifelong Democrats have left the party in droves for alternatives because of their disappointment in how dysfunctional and timid the party has been when dealing with George W. Bush. Especially those Democrats who are politically active -- which makes them competitive -- that makes losing all the time a real "turn off."