Opinion polling shows the American public groping for an approach to foreign policy that protects U.S. interests and values without bankrupting our nation financially, militarily or morally. An extreme version of this debate is playing out around the 2012 Republican primary. While Representative Ron Paul gives full voice to the tradition of American isolationism, Governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have taken tentative steps away from GOP orthodoxy by calling for significant troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. This isolationism-minded position has also found some support from Republicans in both houses of Congress. That has garnered strong pushback from Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the dominant conservative national security voices in Congress, as well as the party’s neoconservative intellectuals. Poll numbers suggest the public is looking for a sober, pragmatic, collaborative approach. With tempers getting heated – this weekend Senator Graham suggested that Congress should “sorta shut up” and former White House speechwriter Marc Thiessen described the 2012 candidates’ views as “flirtation with retreat” – they don’t seem likely to get it from the conservative political debate.
Yesterday, four former senior level intelligence officials, all of whom have worked with Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell in the past, sent a letter to McConnell seeking clarification on statements both he and President Bush have made during the recent debate over FISA and telecom immunity.
Changes in military tactics can lead to short term gains, but only a comprehensive political strategy to bring Iraq’s warring factions together can lead to a permanent solution to the conflict. One year since the President announced the “surge,” it remains clear that he has no such strategy.
Despite recent press reports that the GAO will soon report that “while the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," and the Associated Press indicates that, “sectarian violence has actually doubled in 2007,” US officials have recently claimed that violence is down and specifically civilian deaths in Iraq have decreased. No evidence has been provided to the public that supports this claim. This assertion follows a bloody month for civilians in Iraq including a bombing that killed more than 400 people and is the deadliest attack of the war.