The Senate held hearings this week to confirm new leadership and assess U.S. policy in Iraq, while the intelligence community predicted a bleak future for the country's security prospects. Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss Iraq policy.
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And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
And this week, Mark, the "we don't like the troop surge" resolutions merged from two to one. Does that help their prospects any?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:
I think it helps their prospects in two ways. First of all, it takes it out of the presidential arena. You had Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel, one a Democrat, one a Republican, both potential — actually, in one case, presidential candidate. So that colored, I think, the political appeal of them, diminished the political appeal.
And John Warner stepping forward. If you'll recall, any time there's been a suggestion of even debating or criticizing the administration policy, the automatic response from congressional Republicans and the administration in general has been, "You're jeopardizing the troops. You're jeopardizing their morale. It's unfair to them."
Well, in John Warner, you have Mr. Republican himself. I think he's the only Republican from Virginia ever re-elected, 30 years in the Senate, former naval veteran of World War II, Korean Marine officer veteran, secretary of the Navy, chairman of the Armed Services Committee…
So he can stand up to that troop morale…
Exactly. Exactly. And I think he stands up, and I think it improves the chances.
Can they get to 60 votes to even debate the thing in the first place?
DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:
Doesn't look like it. I think they seem to be falling short. You've got to remember this is a nonbinding resolution. It does absolutely nothing substantively, so what they're trying to do is deliver a political message, and the question is, "What political message are they trying to do?"
I think Sen. Biden is trying to deliver a slap at the president, "You've got to change your whole policy." Sen. Warner is trying to do something differently. He wants to stand up for the institution of the Senate and come up with some bipartisan approach.
But I've heard one senator after another — I've heard Sen. Obama say this, Sen. Corker say this, say that the crucial issue is not the 20,000 troops. That's just a symbolic issue. The crucial issue for them is, what is the grand strategy for Iraq moving forward?
Some of them want a regional diplomacy solution. Some want to get out. Some want this soft partition. And they're using this troop surge idea just as a tag, as a resolution, just to get them to this larger debate, which I think really will be the substantive debate.
The tactics of whether 20,000 will help or hurt is not something they're particularly well-qualified to judge or that interested.