Progressives Leading on Iraq: Sound Policy Ideas vs. Political Spin

(Our guest blogger, Brian Katulis, is the co-author of Strategic Redeployment, American Progress’ strategy for Iraq.)

Today’s Senate debate puts on full display the choice that Americans face on Iraq and national security policy.

Progressives are offering sensible policy ideas to change direction and the chance for accountability. White House allies are stuck on tired attempts to politicize national security, offering more of the same and serving as a rubber stamp for failed policies.

More than six months ago, President Bush offered up a plan for Iraq. The response from Congress? First, deafening silence. Then, Congress realized it was so unconvinced by the President’s ideas that it appointed an independent commission to look into Iraq to offer new ideas and recommendations.

No one has rallied around President Bush’s Iraq plan — in large part because a majority of Americans are don’t approve of it, and are looking for a new policy.

Progressives led the charge last November, with a measure calling on the Bush administration to take steps to make sure that 2006 was a “period of significant transition.” This measure got the support of a large majority — 79 Senators of all partisan stripes. Nearly halfway through this year that is supposed to be a period of significant transition, and who is leading the charge? Progressives again.

A pair of resolutions introduced in the U.S. Senate this week — one resolution by a group of Senators who have each recently visited Iraq, and a second approach, proposed by Senators Kerry, Feingold, and Boxer, are serious attempts to define what “period of significant transition” means.

Both approaches are similar to an Iraq plan proposed by the Center for American Progress, although the first amendment does not embrace the 18 month timeframe advocated by the Center.

Yes, there are some differences between the two resolutions, but the basic thrust is the same – calling for a phased redeployment of U.S. forces to begin in 2006, coupled with increased efforts to set Iraq’s political transition and reconstruction back on track. Both approaches call on President Bush to put a stronger focus on the broader war on terror, reflecting a concern raised by 87 percent terrorism experts surveyed by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress who say that the war in Iraq has had a negative impact on the war on terror.

The ideas offered up by progressives in the Senate today are a serious attempt to advance the country’s debate on Iraq. Americans should listen carefully.

Brian Katulis