[…] Indulge me, for a moment, in a hypothetical. Imagine that a deeply unpopular Democratic President is attempting to persuade a skeptical Congress to undertake a massive restructuring of the American economy, a full-scale expansion of the welfare state that would require taxes to be tripled. Since his credibility lies in ruins, the President hands the task of selling the plan to a career IRS accountant with an imposing Roman-sounding name and a reputation as a brilliant economist. With bated breath, the press awaits the testimony of Accountant Augustus, who over four hours of testimony uses a bevy of charts and graphs to argue that, in his technical, expert opinion, the size of the government should be tripled.
It’s a preposterous scenario, of course, but it highlights some central absurdities of the debate over the war in Iraq. The Bush Administration, which has politicized nearly the entire federal government and subverted the expert opinions of career civil servants to the partisan agenda of their appointed bosses at every turn, now thinks politics should have absolutely nothing to do with deciding whether to engage in a twenty-first-century imperial occupation of a country of 20 million. According to the White House, the war and its duration are technical matters, best left to the judgment of a career Army officer with strong credentials. […]
We keep hearing from all quarters that there is no military solution in Iraq, only a political one. It’s half true. There is, indeed, no military solution, but the political solution isn’t to be found among the deadlocked factions in Iraq’s Parliament. The ultimate political solution is here in the United States. The only way to end the war is to use the tools of politics to force our government to accede to the will of the majority of Americans, who want to get out of Iraq. Just as deciding how high marginal tax rates should be is fundamentally a political question, so too is the question of how long we will continue to occupy Iraq. War is not some special category of policy that stands outside democratic accountability. Indeed, it is in bringing the self-perpetuating logic of war to heel that the often degrading business of democratic politics finds one of its most noble callings.