Friday, January 26, 2007

Democracy Still Can Work

One of the traps into which successive administrations consistently fall is to regard elections as a sign that a country has become – or at least is well down the road toward becoming – a democracy. Many of the countries that emerged from the disintegration of the former USSR, the former Yugoslavia, and many countries in Africa that have succumbed to civil war have struggled not only to have elections once but to repeat the process two or three times without a breakdown in civil society or the rule of law.

Faith in the integrity of our own country’s electoral processes has been severely tested in the last two elections. This was especially true in the 2006 election when it became known that many voting machines would have no audit trail in case a recount were necessary. Moreover, some of the machines were susceptible to tampering from remote locations by hackers intent on changing the vote counts.

Today, however, the U.S. demonstrated – and will do so again tomorrow – that the people have other means of expressing their judgment on major policy issues.

Since the president’s State of the Union speech January 23 in which he officially announced that 21,500 additional men and women soldiers would go to Iraq, Congress has been inundated with protests from citizens who strongly oppose the “surge” plan. Congress has responded with a number of resolutions. Some address only the surge. Some also object to an announced increase in the size of the armed forces of 92,000 over the next five years. Still others call for a less belligerent attitude toward Iran.

Among the latest is House Concurrent Resolution 45 introduced by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA). His proposal stands out from others in that he takes up the president’s challenge to those who see the surge as the wrong choice for U.S. policy in Iraq. The operative parts of H. Con. Res. 45 are

- “reposition U.S. troops…[to] meet the objective of training and equipping the Iraqi military, containing terrorism through special operations and rapid reaction forces, and ensuring the transfer of responsibility from United States to Iraqi control;

- “establish a framework…that includes…milestones and objectives within a reasonable time frame;

-“launch a new diplomatic initiative to unite the region and build international consensus for stability and reconstruction in Iraq; and

- “any policies enacted by the Administration with regard to Iraq are implemented in direct and continued consultation with Congress and relevant House and Senate committees.”

Some may not like this as being too restrictive while others might see it at too permissive. Either way, it’s a serious proposal and one that meets the president’s challenge head-on.

And the other expression of democracy? That’s tomorrows protest rally on the Mall followed on Monday with visits to the Washington offices of members of Congress to reinforce the message: stop the surge, stop the killing; support the troops (bring them home); support rebuilding (by and for Iraqis).


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