Not surprisingly, a new poll shows a majority of Americans favor setting a deadline to bring troops home from Iraq, while an even larger majority oppose President Bush's plan to send more troops to the warzone. Meanwhile, another new survey of international relations scholars finds 89% in agreement that the war in Iraq will result in decreased national security for Americans. Polls taken during those previous debacles in American history showed similar sentiments. So why is public opinion so rarely heeded in decisions that affect not only the direction of the country and its relations with other nations, but the lives of America's sons and daughters, brothers and sisters? How representative is a government that doesn't represent the will of the people?
This time around, blame Joe Lieberman.
It's no secret that Lieberman is the lynchpin in the Democrats' control of the Senate and if Lieberman chooses to betray them, the Republicans regain control and hope of changing course in Iraq is lost. Therefore, the Democrats have one hand tied behind their back. They can't act on the popular support for bringing the troops home and ending U.S. involvement in the war, because they have to somehow appease Lieberman, who lost the Democratic nomination in his own state, due to his dedication to President Bush's alleged plan for Iraq.
In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Lieberman mentioned that General Petraeus, new commander of the forces in Iraq, expects to be able to assess whether the escalated force is achieving its goals by the end of the summer. Lieberman wants a "truce" between the parties on Iraq until then. What he really means is that he wants Democrats - in defiance of public opinion and popular support - to stop pressuring him and other Senate leaders to come up with an alternative before September. In a profile this month in The New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg writes that Lieberman feels he owes the Democrats nothing, and suggests that a big reason why cutting off funds for the war is not on the table is because that would push Lieberman over the edge and make him switch parties.
What if autumn comes and no progress has been made? The Bush administration will certainly spin the situation to tell the public that some goals have been achieved. Will they, and General Petraeus, ask for more time and more patience (which means, undoubtedly, more lives lost)? Or will Joe Lieberman have the courage to step up and say "We gave this a chance and it didn't work. Now let's listen to the people and bring them home"?
If it turns out to be the case that Congress must wait another six months to effectively even make an attempt to turn things around because Lieberman is holding control of the Senate hostage, then the lives of everyone lost in that time are on his hands. Lieberman's excess of pride and feelings of personal vengeance come at the cost of delaying the democratic process and the irreparable harm that will likely come to many families on all sides of this war.
More info: Inside the Ivory Tower