Monday, June 11, 2007

Six Months Later, Congress Warms to Iraq Study Group Recommendations

Last week Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and six of their colleagues -- three Republicans and three Democrats -- introduced the Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act of 2007 (S.1545). If passed into law, it would make the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report into official U.S. policy. The other cosponsors are Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Sununu (R-NH) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). In the House, a companion bill (H.R.2574) was introduced by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Mike McCaul (R-TX), Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and a bipartisan coalition of more than 40 representatives.

The good news: EPIC supports the Iraq Study Group Report and the current legislation to implement the recommendations fully into our policy. The bad news: the legislation just doesn't quite hit on some of the important components in detail.

The report states, "[the recommendations] are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation." Given that the report offers a thorough, all-encompassing approach to tackling the situation, including humanitarian aid and economic development as crucial ingredients for success, this statement offers a great deal of promise. However, the group's specific recommendations for economic aid are not voiced in the bills.

With this is mind, the legislation does provide some general statements regarding aid and development; urging "economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Government of Iraq from non-neighboring Muslim nations." This is a start, and given that the two bills support the full implementation of the report, we should see recommendations 64-71 put into action. Our concern is that, without true talk of development and its specific needs and benefits, it will fall down on the list of priorities and potentially not receive the attention it needs.

Despite the importance of this legislation, the media coverage has been less than determined. ABC News did a short, one-page report, and statements were released from Senators Salazar and Alexander. While the most significant issue the ABC report highlighted was the fact that six months have gone by without debate on such a substantial and comprehensive document, the two senatorial statements did manage to exhibit a remarkable amount of self-congratulations over their bipartisanship.

While reaching across the aisle is an essential criterion for successful legislation (what we're crossing our fingers for), the sheer saturation of partisan rhetoric does not help advance the debate on the policy. Bipartisanship should be assumed and left at that; we need to see the solutions and the particulars at the forefront of debate.

While not as detailed in the economic development and international aid coverage as we wanted, the legislation is not exactly detailed in anything else either. The most important point is the language confirming the comprehensive nature of the Iraq Study Group Report and the intention to keep it as such.

To see some of the effects the legislation would have on actual progress in Iraq, and how you can take action encourage your Senator to sponsor the bill, check out FCNL's report.


Anonymous said...

WHat is the liklliehood the bill actually passes congress and presidential veto?

Anonymous said...

What kind of support could we expect to get from other allies if this bill were implemented?

Geoff Schaefer said...

Anonymous 1 - First, let me apologize for not getting back to you earlier. I was out of the office all day yesterday after the blog went up so I didn't have a chance to respond. Let me say this though, and please take it with a grain of salt because it is strictly my opinion. If you look at how the media interacts with the congress in setting the agenda/importance of legislation to be debated and voted on, then it doesn't look like the bill has that much life in it. As I stated in my piece, there has been virtually no attention for this legislation at all. While there is a decent amount of support in congress for the bill (mostly in the House), without public awareness and a frequenting of the legislation in our discourse, the congress won't feel any pressure to even deliver the bill to the floor for debate. Look at the most important legislation right now: immigration reform and troop withdraw. Even with the tremendous pressure from the public realm, those bills aren't going anywhere. Secondly, I feel that the President would take this as another personal attack on his handling and conduct of the war. As we all know, he doesn't like to be told he is not doing the right thing. So, while it might not get vetoed, it probably won't get that far anyway. However, you can visit the FCNL link at the bottom of the blog and check out the link on their site that lets you send a request directly to your Senator for him or her to support this legislation. I would encourage all of you to do that. That's the best way to put pressure on the congress to act. We often don't get a great chance like this to directly influence our representatives' thinking and agenda, but this is that chance.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Anonymous 2 - Again, I would like to apologize to you as well for not getting back to you yesterday. To be honest, I don't quite understand your question, so let me set up two scenarios that I think might help. If not, please respond back and I will try to be more direct. Scenario #1: If you mean "allies" as in allies of EPIC, then you can expect widespread support. Easy. Scenario #2: If by "allies" you mean our allies in the world and our allies in Iraq, then that constitutes a more complex answer. The short of it, I think at the very least it would make a small difference. In a way it would be admitting that our current policy is not working very well (to say the least) and for some countries, I think that would be a good start. With the figurehead of the US still being President Bush, I think support from our allies will remain negligible though, and it certainly wouldn't win over anyone new. I say this because the past 4 years of the war are ingrained in the world's head. If we were to change policy and try to move forward in a different direction, I'm not sure our allies would see it as a true step ahead. I'm not sure anyone would until Bush is gone. So while it would be a great move to make, I wouldn't count on the rest of the world seeing it as such. I feel everyone is a little jaded and cynical in regards to the US right now. Unfortunately, with any new policy, the diplomatic effort will have to extend far beyond the parameters of Iraq for it to be successful. Fortunately, that is surely within our reach.

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