Another Republican broke ranks today with President Bush over the war in Iraq. This time it was Richard Lugar, the well-respected U.S. senator from Indiana.
Mr. President, 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.
Lugar is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The harsh judgment from one of the Senate's most respected foreign-policy voices was a blow to White House efforts to boost flagging support for its war policy, and opened the door to defections by other Republicans who have supported the administration despite increasing private doubts.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Bush (today) urging the president to develop "a comprehensive plan for our country's gradual military disengagement" from Iraq. "I am also concerned that we are running out of time," he wrote.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, praised Lugar's statement as "an important and sincere contribution" to the Iraq debate.
Republican defections from the president as we enter the 2008 elections are no surprise. President Bush is about as popular as Richard Nixon was before his forced resignation from the presidency. Those of us who opposed the war from the start could look at today’s developments and argue that these defections are natural for politicians such as Warner, who like many other Congressional republicans faces a difficult re-election campaign, and who see the president’s evaporating support as evidence of their own electoral weakness.
But tonight I’m abandoning my own natural political cynicism and will simply be happy that each day more and more Americans understand that a terrible mistake was made that continues to cause chaos and the unnecessary deaths of both Americans and Iraqis.