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Friday, March 14, 2003

See-Saw Politics

Here at the Node I pause every once in a while to indulge in a little political theorizing. Right now, the Republican party is in control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. This triumverate of political power is demonstrating how one-sided its political agenda really is. Now, imagine with me for a moment a scenario whereby the Republicans lose control of the Presidency, along with one or both of the houses of Congress. Add to this the current slate of legislative agenda items -- drilling in ANWR, for instance (which is about to slip through on the back of a budget bill. Please encourage your senators, especially those of you down in Arkansas, to prevent this from happening). Let's assume that the current budget bill passes with ANWR provision intact, and thus becomes law. Now, when power changes hands in January of 2005, what happens with ANWR? Since this is a proposal that's hotly contested, it's not too far fetched to consider that an incoming Democratic president would push for a bill declaring ANWR off-limits again (as it is now). Now, extrapolate this out over the entire current legislative agenda, including all the bills that have passed in the last two years, and we have a problem. The problem isn't that these proposals are good or bad policy (I believe that the ANWR proposal is bad policy, but you probably guessed that). The problem is we're on a pendulum that threatens to swing back and forth every four years for the next few elections. The lack of compromise in the Senate and the House is producing legislation that won't withstand the test of time, and _that_ will contribute to "gridlock" in Washington.

Political compromise is unfairly cast in a bad light in the U.S. It is much better to show "leadership" and to stand your ground than to consider another side's proposal. The current administration is taking advantage of this mispreception by taking strong positions and then being inflexible, such as on the issue of Iraq. Only very recently has there been any progress in coming to a solution that a majority of nations in the Security Council can support, and this after much damage has been done by grandstanding on both sides of the debate. For no good reason at all, the French, the Germans, and to a lesser extent the Russians are being tagged as sissy fence-sitters who have nothing but ill-will for American and are only concerned about their economic concerns in Iraq. Similarly, for no good reason any mention of possible military action in Iraq results in a chorus of "No War!", without giving alternative scenarios or ways for all sides to save face politically and still not go to war against Iraq. The fine art of mediation and negotiation seems to be lost in this sort of world, and I hope for something of a revival of the sensible notion of compromise.

I would like to see a mediator intervene in the current dispute between Iraq and the U.S. It would be hard to find someone who is trusted by both sides and who doesn't yet have an opinion one way or the other, but such an individual or institution could perform a valuable service to all by stepping in and mediating a solution to the current crisis. A mediator could accomplish several goals. First, provide a way for all sides to save face politically and withdraw from their current adversarial positions. Second, work out a plan for Hussein to disarm and then prove that this has acceptably been accomplished. Third, determine a timetable for lifiting of sanctions against Iraq. If both sides were forced to sit down at a table and discuss the issue, we believe that an acceptable compromise could be reached. It may be that an acceptable compromise includes the transfer of political power from Hussein to someone else. It may include promises from the U.S. or other countires for economic aid to Iraq.

Within the U.S. government, I'd like to see someone step forward who's got clout with both sides and start working for compromise. An example of this kind of person would be the Colin Powell everyone knew and loved several months ago. He seemed to be in the middle between a war-bent Bush administration and the millions of people who oppose war with Iraq. Does such a person exist in the Senate or the House? None spring immediately to mind, but I suspect someone out there has the credentials and the respect to pull it off.

This probably sounds pie-in-the-skyish to a lot of people, but if we don't do something to counter the strident tones in Washington and the U.N., we're going to be facing a long struggle as idealogues from all sides gain control of the debate and force us to deal directly with their extreme points of view.


Note: This article reflects the opinion of part of the Node. Perhaps Bran would like to chime in and point out what he may or may not agree with.

Andrew 1:44 PM : |


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