Top Videos
Related Opinion
Related Topics
2008 Polls NationalIowaNew HampshireGeneral Election
GOP | DemGOP | DemGOP | DemHead-to-Head

Send to a Friend | Print Article

Only Republicans Can Stop the War

By Richard Reeves

One July morning in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson greeted a group of old political friends at the White House. It was business as usual, the weekly meeting of the most important Senate committee chairmen: Richard Russell of Georgia, Henry (Scoop) Jackson and Warren Magnuson of Washington state, Allen Ellender of Louisiana, James Eastland of Mississippi, Mike Monroney of Oklahoma and William Fulbright of Arkansas.

All Democrats and, except for Fulbright, all of them were strong supporters of the war muddling on in Vietnam. Johnson, smiling and flattering, thanked them first for their friendship, and even kidded Fulbright, who once more told him the country had to get out of the war before Congress could line up behind Johnson's ambitious domestic agenda. What was different this July 27 was that the others rather suddenly said, more or less, that Fulbright was right.

The president blew up, saying: "If you want me to get out, then you have the prerogative of taking out the resolution under which we are out there now. You can repeal it tomorrow. You can tell the troops to come home. You can tell General Westmoreland that he doesn't know what he is doing."

They failed, of course. Johnson fought on, destroying himself and his party, setting up the election of a new Republican president, Richard Nixon, who cynically kept the war going in search of the political benefits of "peace with honor."

On May 9 of this year, that scene was repeated, more or less, in the White House of George W. Bush. It was all Republicans this time, a dozen moderate Republicans came to call and warn the emperor.

It was self-defense. They are the ones most worried that they will go down in next year's election as the Iraq war sinks into deeper disaster. One of the congressman, Tom Davis, told Bush that the president's approval rating was about 5 percent in his northern Virginia district.

The visitors told Bush that not only was his presidency being destroyed, but so was his party. Between the lines, they were saying: Congressional Democrats may introduce the resolutions that will slow down the war, but only Republicans can end what the White House so foolishly began.

The Republicans of 2007, like the Democrats 40 years before, will probably fail -- which means they will probably quit or be defeated next year. The president, like Johnson before him, simply seems to have lost touch with reality. Iraq is broken and we can't fix it.

Another victim of the war, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, came to Washington last week to commiserate one last time with the president he so blindly followed. While he was here, the most important foreign affairs think tank in his country, Chatham House, offered its annual assessment of the effort, under the title "Accepting Realities in Iraq."

"Iraq has fractured into regional power bases. ... The al-Maliki regime is merely one of several 'state-like actors' that now exist in Iraq. Key economic and security decisions are no longer made in Baghdad but by local sectarian, ethnic or tribal groups -- whoever is currently on top in a particular city or district. Many of the major centers have become lawless theaters of inter- and intra-sectarian and inter-ethnic violent combat. It can be argued that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation."

And there is nothing we can do about it. Chatham House, hardly a bunch of peaceniks, added this astonishing if obvious judgment: "The most capable foreign power in Iraq, in terms of influencing future events, is not the U.S. It is Iraq."

We never had a chance. In fact, save for those few heady weeks early on, the nation, cocooned in lies from Washington, never cared about or supported the war. I saw a small example of that last weekend when I traveled to North Carolina for my daughter's graduation from Duke University. Of the 3,257 young men and women awarded bachelor's degrees in that flag-waving part of the country, only 11 were commissioned as military officers, seven in the Navy, three in the Air Force, one in the Marines, none in the Army.

We have lost. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, was mocked and vilified for saying that two weeks ago. But he was telling the truth. Another truth, a more political one, is that if the war is to be ended sooner rather than later, it can only be done by the Republicans in Congress.


Email Friend | Print | RSS | Add to | Add to Digg
Sponsored Links
 Richard Reeves
Richard Reeves
Author Archive