Essays on American politics and foreign policy

By Donald E. Nuechterlein

Donald Nuechterlein is a political scientist and writer who resides near Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of numerous books on American politics and foreign policy, including

  • Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
  • America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
  • A Cold War Odyssey, 1997


Donald Nuechterlein


September 2006

Experts on the Middle East say that Iran's and Syria's anti-American leaders now calculate that U.S. voters will give the Democrats control of Congress in November and that George Bush will be under increased pressure to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.

Iraq's leaders too show uncertainty about whether Americans will be there in 2007 to help them avert civil war.

Last week, Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl reported on an interview ("Not Wanted: An Exit Strategy," Sept. 4) that he and other newsmen had in Washington ith the influential Iraqi leader, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. His mission was to find out from President Bush and Vice President Cheney what U.S. intentions are in Iraq.

"It's a critical moment," said Mahdi, who spoke fluent English. "We want to be sure that we understand perfectly what's going on, and the real strategy of the United States in Iraq." He wanted to know "whether there is a Plan B."

In 2004, the U.S. presidential election was decided by Ohio voters who gave George Bush a slim majority and ensured his electoral college victory. In 2006, voters in Connecticut may decide whether anti-war Democrats are in the ascendancy and will become the majority party in the House, possibly even the Senate.

The major contest in Connecticut is for the senate seat currently held by a three-term incumbent, Joe Lieberman. The senator was recently denied renomination in a Democratic Party primary because of his unwavering support for the war in Iraq. His removal as the party's candidate this year is remarkable because he has served eighteen years in the Senate and was his party's nominee for vice president in 2004.

Instead of going away quietly, however, Lieberman decided to fight for his senate seat by running as an independent candidate. Surprisingly, recent polls show him leading his Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman without political credentials. Lamont strongly opposes the Iraq war and wants American troops withdrawn quickly.

Most political observers think that Republicans will retain control of the Senate but could lose the House because of voter dissatisfaction with George Bush's inability to end the war. However, voter displeasure could produce a "political earthquake" this year, similar to one that occurred in 1980 when Ronald Reagan won the presidency and helped elect enough Republicans to give his party control of the Senate.

Lieberman says that if he is reelected as an independent, he will join Democrats in forming standing committees in the Senate. On the key issue of Iraq, however, he is expected to support President Bush's efforts to keep a sizeable U.S. force in Iraq to prevent civil war and a likely Middle East conflagration that would be the result of an early pullout.

In another senate race, Hillary Clinton's bid for reelection in New York, the outcome is not in doubt because she will be reelected. The question is by how large a margin and whether anti-war Democrats will stay at home because she refuses to disavow her 2002 vote in favor of the war. A narrow win could adversely affect her 2008 presidential bid.

If Joe Lieberman loses his bid for reelection and Democrats achieve a majority in the House, Iranian and Syrian leaders, and those in other Middle East countries, will conclude that America will soon be out of Iraq. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will then be obliged to accept the reality that Iran, not the United States, will be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. If Tehran is permitted to build nuclear weapons, it will be in a position to control the volume and the price of Persian Gulf oil in world markets.

George Bush asserts America will not abandon Iraq on his watch. But, as Richard Nixon learned during his withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, an emboldened Congress can undercut presidential plans by delaying action on defense budgets and holding public hearings that show the futility of "staying the course."

In sum, Joe Lieberman's decision to defy Connecticut's Democratic Party and run as an independent may be a bell-weather regarding the anti-war movement's impact in national politics. George Bush will have much to cheer about if the senator wins this contest.

File last modified on Thursday, 14-SEP-2006 7:04 PM EST

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