This has been a foreign policy election. The tectonic shift in political power that has been imposed on Washington was imposed mostly by conservative and moderates on the basis of anxiety over the Bush war policy in Iraq. This political wave in the House of Representatives will have the votes to shape the politics of the next two years.
Control of the Senate may not be known for weeks. But the powerful Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and John Warner (R-VA), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have long expressed doubts about the Bush war policy.
The Speaker-to-be of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in 2002 insisted on the common-sense position that Iraq posed no imminent threat to the U.S. She mustered 126 votes in the House to support that view. This does not signal the intent in 2007 to pull out of Iraq. Rather, common sense in national security policy, not ideology, is likely to be her hallmark as Speaker. The most intense political concern for both the President and the Congress going forward is management of the catastrophic failure we now face in Iraq.
The deeper and longer-range challenge for the United States is what some in the Pentagon call the Long War of the global Islamic resurgence, with its hatred of modern Western culture and especially American culture. This hatred is analogous to the hatred and contempt for modern Western culture by the Nazis and Fascists in the aftermath of World War I.
By February the Democratic House Committee chairs and staffs will be organized for the Congressional investigations that will generate barrages of subpoenas and will dominate the news cycles throughout 2007. These investigations will be tinged with pay-back but the emphasis will be on future policy: Iraq, and the Long War. President Bush will inexorably be forced to begin making strategic political choices between dialogue with the Congress, and executive branch dominance and determination.
The House of Representatives will aim to shape public opinion along lines that will help the Democrats' 2008 presidential hopes and dash the hopes of the Republicans. The stakes could not be higher. It is a pity that President Bush is such a lame duck that he will hardly be able to gain support even from Congressional members of his own party. However, he is still commander in chief and as such he still controls the military.
In any case, Congress is bound to launch an investigation agenda that will include:
What has been the political influence of the neo-conservatives, the religious right and certain erudite eccentrics on Bush Administration foreign-policy decision-making? Is their influence still a factor in the White House?
Who in the Bush Administration really knew about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, what did they think they knew and when did they know it?
Who in the Bush Administration knew about any significant link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda?
Does the new structure of the intelligence community work?
What must be done to draw other powers into an Iraq solution on terms acceptable to us, before they decide to intervene on their own terms?
Who are our adversaries in the Long War? What motivates them, what kind of threat do they pose and can we counter that threat with the military forces we now deploy?
If the U.S. military has to be used in the Long War, what is their task and how should their campaigns be fought?
What is the Long War about?
The most interesting and important witnesses in these hearings will be former members of the administration-senior officers in the military and the intelligence community who have broken with the President and will provide systematic and expert criticism.
They may also speak to the requirements for American leadership and moral legitimacy in the world of the 21st century.
Ambassador Ellsworth is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Nixon Center and President of The National Interest, Inc. He was Chairman of Bob Dole's Presidential Campaign in 1988, Ambassador to NATO under President Nixon and worked in the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld as Deputy Secretary of Defense (and received the National Security Medal) during the Ford administration. Now a life-science venture capitalist in San Diego, he was a three-term Republican Congressman from Kansas. He served at sea in the U.S. Navy in World War II and the Korean Conflict.