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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Let the debate begin

Sen. McCain, meet Rep. Rangel. And I assume you know Sens. Biden and Levin. Not to mention that guy Kerry.

The first post-election clash of ideas (as opposed to snarky backbiting) is revolving around should we stay or should we go. And if we stay, do we do it right (and fairly).

McCain is one of the few voices calling for an increased troop commitment to Iraq. He makes some compelling arguments -- or at least something presented more cogently than George Bush's hollow mantra of "fight 'em there or fight 'em here."
"The consequences of failure are so severe that I will exhaust every possibility to try to fix this situation. Because it's not the end when American troops leave. The battleground shifts, and we'll be fighting them again," McCain said. "You read Zarqawi, and you read bin Laden. ... It's not just Iraq that they're interested in. It's the region, and then us."
Rangel, the incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, offers a different and interesting take on the argument -- one that leaves his ultimate intent open for discussion.

In calling for restoration of the draft, Rangel said:
"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."
So is he for or against additional troops?

The commitment of additional US forces to what has clearly degenerated into a civil war (semantics aside) is the No. 1 item on America's plate next year. For critics who insisted the Democrats didn't have a plan, here is one certain to get people thinking: do you increase the pain and sacrifice beyond the same military units who have been called upon time after time to bear the burden?

It basically comes down to what McCain is saying. If you want to do this, do it right. And that means shared sacrifice.

But Rangel steps it up a notch by saying that sacrifice should includes the sons and daughters of all Americans -- not just the ones who, for whatever reasons, opt for a life in the military.

Call me naive, but I think that was one of the things John Kerry was trying to get at when he botched his "joke." W., after all, was one of those sons of privilege who avoided service in Vietnam.

At its root, I believe that is the message Rangel is trying to send. Reinstate the draft, opening combat up to those of privilege too -- and watch how quickly Republicans and Democrats find common ground in creating an exit strategy.

But McCain has a point. Without putting something in place to clean up the mess we created, we only delay the day of reckoning. It is way past time for the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. It's also way past time for the president and Congress to deal with our "allies" in a manner that makes it clear it is their fight.

How we do that of course is the challenge. And don't look to me for answers. I'm a liberal, not a magician.

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