Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Senator Richard Lugar's Statement

Has this generation's J. William Fulbright finally stood up?

J. William Fulbright was an eclectic and free-thinking southern Democrat. He was a staunch segregationist at the same time he was a multilateralist. He supported the creation of the United Nations, opposed the House Un-American Activities Committee and was an outspoken critic of the organized pro-Israel lobby in the US. He is also remembered for his efforts to establish an international exchange program, which thereafter bore his name, the Fulbright Fellowships. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he opposed Lyndon Johnson's intervention in the Vietnamese civil war from 1966-1974. As a member of the president's own party, his breaking ranks with LBJ over the Vietnam War was one of the decisive factors in Johnson's retiring as a discouraged wartime president after his first term of office.

Yesterday, the current ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, became a potentially equally portentious dissenting member of the president's own party, when he addressed the Senate:
I rise today to offer observations on the continuing involvement of the United States in Iraq. In my judgment, our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world. The prospects that the current “surge” strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic political debate. And the strident, polarized nature of that debate increases the risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interests in the Middle East. Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world.

In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.

. . . . three factors – the political fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military, and the constraints of our own domestic political process -- are converging to make it almost impossible for the United States to engineer a stable, multi-sectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable time frame.

. . . . it is very doubtful that the leaders of Iraqi factions are capable of implementing a political settlement in the short run. I see no convincing evidence that Iraqis will make the compromises necessary to solidify a functioning government and society, even if we reduce violence to a point that allows for some political and economic normalcy.

. . . . The second factor working against our ability to engineer a stable government in Iraq is the fatigue of our military. The window during which we can continue to employ American troops in Iraqi neighborhoods without damaging our military strength or our ability to respond to other national security priorities is closing. . . . . American armed forces are incredibly resilient, but Iraq is taking a toll on recruitment and readiness.

. . . . The President and some of his advisors may be tempted to pursue the surge strategy to the end of his administration, but such a course contains extreme risks for U.S. national security.

. . . . In my judgment, the current surge strategy is not an effective means of protecting these interests. Its prospects for success are too dependent on the actions of others who do not share our agenda. It relies on military power to achieve goals that it cannot achieve.

. . . . Our security interests call for a downsizing and re-deployment of U.S. military forces to more sustainable positions in Iraq or the Middle East.

. . . . Our struggles in Iraq have placed U.S. foreign policy on a defensive footing and drawn resources from other national security endeavors, including Afghanistan.
Senator Lugar also said that America owes the President "constructive engagement".

We do not. We have given that in full. It is Bush, by lying and misleading America into this historically unprecedented cluster-blunder in Iraq,
who owes America his apology and resignation.