Confront Iran together

The real problem is that Democrats and Republicans have allowed Iraq to become a distraction from Iran.

Ahmadinejad wave 298.88 (photo credit: )
Ahmadinejad wave 298.88
(photo credit: )
'Today the American people voted for ... Democrats to take our country in a new direction, and that is exactly what we intend to do," said Nancy Pelosi, expected to be the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the wake of Tuesday's midterm elections. "The American people voted for a new direction to restore civility and bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., and Democrats promise to work together in a bipartisan way for all Americans." The call for unity and cooperation just after a hard-fought election is as American as motherhood and apple pie. For all our sakes, however, this pledge had better not be mere boilerplate. Speaking from a particularly precarious part of the world, we simply cannot afford a United States that, in the midst of global war, becomes paralyzed by partisan bickering. Though there is a long history of midterm elections of second-term presidents being treacherous for the party in power, it is clear that President George Bush and, in particular, the war in Iraq, cost the Republicans dearly. It is equally clear, however, that Democrats have presented no coherent alternative to Bush's policies. Pelosi, set to become the leader of the victorious House Democrats, has endorsed calls for an immediate drawdown of American troops in Iraq. Other prominent liberal Democrats, such as Senator Joe Biden, have not, and seem to agree with Bush that simply walking away from Iraq is unacceptable. The real problem, however, is not the shallow and unconstructive debate over Iraq, but that Democrats and Republicans have allowed Iraq to become a distraction from the main threat looming, that of a nuclear Iran. Imagine that the Democrats could agree that withdrawing from Iraq was a good idea, and persuaded Bush to do so. How would this advance US interests, particularly with respect to the threat from Iran? This country has tried to present unilateral withdrawals as victories; the results can hardly be considered worth emulating. What the US needs, instead, is a bipartisan strategy for victory. Such a strategy must be centered on forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear path. As it happens, a successful policy toward Iran is critical to winning in Iraq, since it is almost impossible to imagine democracy prevailing in Iraq so long as Iran is increasingly able to support terrorism there, eventually under the protection of a nuclear umbrella. It is much more important for Democrats and Republicans to agree that the coming Iranian bomb must be stopped, and on a strategy to do so, than it is to pursue a deal on Iraq. If the US is seen to be moving with united determination on Iran, there should be ample ground for a "compromise" on Iraq that would gradually transfer more US security responsibilities to Iraqis. The Republican losses in the Congress could be a blessing in disguise for Bush's foreign policy. The Democrats, now that they have a share of power, cannot simply emasculate Bush's foreign policy and then complain about the results. Politically, such a strategy is unlikely to assist the Democrats in their principle goal of retaking the White House in 2008. For that to happen, the Democrats must demonstrate that they will make Americans more secure in an increasingly dangerous world. The best way for Democrats to prove that they should be given the chance to govern is for them to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush on foreign policy in the two critical years ahead. The sight of Bush and Pelosi reaching agreement on Iran policy would itself send a powerful message to Europe that America is not willing to live with a nuclear Iran, and would embolden these nations to toughen their own policies. As unlikely as this positive scenario may seem to be, the alternative to it is frightening, and would be disastrous for America and the world. A divided America following a feckless Europe is a recipe for deterioration across the board, including defeat in Iraq and the emboldening of the radical axis that emerged in the recent Lebanon war: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. The Democrats must resist the temptation to dedicate their new found power to the sole purpose of bringing down their nemesis, George Bush. They will be more successful politically if they do what is best for their country and the world, and join together to confront the terrorist tyrants that threaten us all.