Nelson: It's Time To Change Courseby Kyle Michaelis
I haven't exactly been Ben Nelson's biggest fan in the world, but he generally has a pretty good idea of where Nebraskans are on an issue, and I think that's one of the reasons why he's so popular. Which is why this bit of news in Wednesday's Lincoln Journal Star came as an encouraging sign for the state of the debate on the war in Iraq:
Sen. Ben Nelson said Wednesday he'll push for a change in the military mission when the Senate next week resumes consideration of U.S. policy in Iraq. U.S. troops should be phased out of sectarian conflict in Baghdad, Nelson said, and redeployed to pursue and destroy al-Qaida elements in Iraq. That transition over a six-month period would lead to reduced troop levels without any artificial deadlines for U.S. withdrawal, he said.
While the Bush administration may argue its surge of additional combat troops is showing some military success, Nelson said, it is not leading to the political accommodation required for peace and stability. "It's very difficult to see what reducing violence in Baghdad has achieved," he told his weekly telephone news conference from Washington. Without Iraqi progress in achieving a political settlement and national stability, Nelson said, it's hard to argue that U.S. policy is succeeding. "In that context," the Democratic senator said, "I don't think the surge has worked."
This is the debate that the administration refuses to have: there is no military solution in Iraq. This must be dealt with politically, diplomatically, and responsibly. No more platitudes, no more fearmongering, no slogans or empty promises. Bring this war to a responsible end.
Nelson's evolution on Iraq has been interesting to watch, because I think it presents a window into Nebraskans' opinions on the war in Iraq. My own personal experience in 2006 was that people in Nebraska had just about had enough of the war in Iraq. Nelson didn't say much of anything about the war during the campaign - he didn't have to with an opponent like Pete Ricketts. But since the new Congress began, he has been outspoken in trying to build bipartisan support to change course in Iraq.
If only the Republicans would listen. But Ben Nelson has been a pleasant surprise over the last few months. And it's been good to see a reminder of why I - and so many others - voted for him.