Or am I playing his? In his column in the Washington Post this morning Robert Kagan considers consequences, in particular the consequences of pursuing particular courses of action with respect to Iraq:
To the extent that people think about Iraq, many seem to believe it is a problem that can be made to go away. Once American forces depart, Iraq will no longer be our problem. Joseph Biden, one of the smartest foreign policy hands in the Senate, recently accused President Bush of sending more troops so that he could pass the Iraq war on to his successor. Biden must assume that if the president took his advice and canceled the troop increase, then somehow Iraq would no longer be a serious crisis when President Biden entered the White House in 2009.
This is a delusion, but it is by no means only a Democratic delusion. Many conservatives and Republicans, including erstwhile supporters of the war, have thrown up their hands in anger at the Iraqi people or the Iraqi government. They, too, seem to believe that if American troops leave, because Iraqis don’t “deserve” our help, then somehow the whole mess will solve itself or simply fade away. Talk about a fantasy. The fact is, the United States cannot escape the Iraq crisis, or the Middle East crisis of which it is a part, and will not be able to escape it for years. And if Iraq does collapse, it will not be the end of our problems but the beginning of a new and much bigger set of problems.
Hat tip: Memeorandum
The consequences with which most of our Senators are concerned are political ones at home. We shouldn’t be surprised at this. I’m not—I’ve been perseverating on it for three years.
Most people are familiar with Lord Acton’s famous apothegm, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Here’s one of mine: for every politician re-election is a concern; perennial re-election is a perennial concern.
I think that Delaware Senator Joe Biden is a good man. He was 29 when he was elected to the Senate. Edward Kennedy was 30 when elected to the Senate; Robert Byrd 44 (he’s nearly 90 now). Christopher Dodd has served for more than 35 years; Pete Domenici has served for 33 years; John Kerry and John McCain have served for more than 20 years. The list goes on and on.
For most senators the primary activity when not actually meeting with their colleagues is fund-raising for re-election. They spend more time at it than at constituent service, being with their families, or any other activity. It is only reasonable to surmise that re-election assumes overweening importance when they’re on the Senate floor and when they’re casting their votes, too.
I’d like to see our senators considering something other than their political futures. Given the hows, whys, and whats of today’s Senate, I don’t think I’ll get my wish.