Democrats Detail Iraq Plans at SAIS

In an effort to hear from all sides, I attended what was meant to be a Democratic debate on candidates’ proposals for an Iraq response. Willing participants to engage in this discussion were Senator Joe Biden (DE), Congressman Dennis Kucinich (OH) and former Senator Mike Gravel (AK).

Gravel, a self-proclaimed “crazy uncle who has come down from the attic after 26 years,” provided the first interesting solution of the evening. Congress should make the war illegal and then throw the President (or anyone else) in jail who does not comply. Gravel guarantees that persistence on the part of Democratic leadership in the House and Senate – coupled with pressure from constituents – would eventually produce a majority sufficient to override the inevitable Presidential veto. “We’ll have the troops home by Christmas 2007 [if we set to work on this right away]!” A creative plan, with a few unrealistic assumptions, but a plan nonetheless.

Kuchinich’s plan is hazy, yet gives his view of war as an instrument of foreign policy. Put simply, war is not the answer. Kuchinich introduced legislation that would insure that Iraqis retain full control of their oil supply and revenues, and calls for the United States to lead an effort toward reparations for the Iraqi people. “We are on the threshold of a new world… we are waiting for a President who sees it and is willing to make it happen.”

“There is no purely military solution,” Biden admits, “so I’ve proposed a detailed political solution as well.” Support must be secured from the Sunnis as partners, probably in the form of oil revenue sharing. Troops should be withdrawn incrementally, with a small force left behind to maintain stability with the aid of other interested nations in the region. “This preserves the possibility of a soft landing in Iraq. Not a victory, but a soft landing.” The most important aspect of Biden’s plan was to “promote and enforce a decentralized federal system as the Iraqi Constitution calls for. The central government in Iraq should be limited uniquely to common concerns.” Federalism and limited government are certainly interesting principles to hear from a Democratic candidate.

It would be interesting to hear others’ ideas (namely Clinton and Obama) expressed in detail instead of press release sound byte. We should look forward to future candid discussions and expect the Republican candidates to organize such a forum to propose their plans for the Iraq conflict as well.