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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Lugar, GOP Voters Sour on Iraq Policy

In the wake of GOP Senator Richard Lugar’s call for an end to the troop ‘surge’ in Iraq, a CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted 6/22-24 reports that 38 percent of Republicans now say they oppose the war and 42 percent support withdrawing at least some troops.

The same poll indicates that two-thirds of Americans oppose the war and 63 percent want to withdraw at least some troops. Lugar’s office insisted that the speech was a long-time in planning, but it would not be a shocker if the poll influenced the timing of his remarks.
Lugar, One of the most influential GOP leaders on foreign policy, said in his cautiously-worded speech on the senate floor:

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 costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved…Persisting indefinitely with the ‘surge’ strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests in the long term…such a course contains extreme risks for United States national security.

Lugar’s speech also reflected a concern about the Iraq policy in the context of GOP political strategy:

“The president and his team must come to grips with the shortened political timeline in this country for political operations in Iraq…”A course change should happen now, while there is still some possibility of constructing a sustainable bipartisan strategy in Iraq. If the president waits until the presidential election campaign is in full swing, the intensity of confrontation on Iraq is likely to limit [options].

Bill Scher of Liberal Oasis points out that Lugar supports keeping a “sustainable” military presence in Iraq, with “temporary or permanent military bases.” Yet Lugar’s call to end the ‘surge,’ along with the CNN poll, indicates that GOP moderates may be ready for a significant change in Iraq policy. And if they don’t get it, Democratic congressional candidates in closely-contested districts, as well as the Dem’s presidential nominee, could reap the benefit.

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