Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Democrats & Game Theory

Three weeks ago, I reported about the hypocritical and seemingly cowardly surrender of the Democratic Congress to President Bush. They had the power to stop the Iraq war simply by refusing to renew funding for the war, and since Bush can only veto active decisions, not passive decisions such as not renewing funding, he would be powerless to stop them. And without funding, the U.S. troops would be forced to leave more or less immediately. And since they then had the upper hand, there was no reason for them to surrender to Bush's demands.

So, why did they do it, if they were serious about ending the war? Well, the answer is that they weren't serious about ending the war. That was just something they pretended to do in order to keep their base happy. They may or may not have favored a withdrawal, but that was not their top priority. In reality, this was a cynical, calculated attempt at gaining an advantage for next year's Presidential election.

They counted on the premise that most voters were unaware of the fact that Congress had the upper hand, and so they would falsely believe that the brief battle between Congress and Bush represented a sincere attempt of stopping the war. Creating that image was a key part in this plan. At the same time, it was necessary for them that their "attempt" failed and the war continued.

Because imagine what would have happened if they had stopped the war. Whether violence in
Iraq would decrease or increase is far from certain, but it would probably remain at a high level. And then the mess in Iraq would be something which the Republicans could blame on them.

By contrast, now the mess in
Iraq will continue to be a Republican mess, started and maintained by President Bush and supported by next year's Republican candidate (except in the unlikely event Ron Paul wins the nomination). And so, as it becomes clear that the Republican strategy is doomed to fail, Iraq will be a major asset for the Democrats. Something which may be a deciding factor that will ensure that the Democratic candidate will win over the Republican candidate, while the Democratic majority in Congress will increase.

So, given the imperfections in the political system and the limited rationality of voters, the seemingly puzzling Democratic "surrender" to Bush might be seen as a brilliant albeit extremely cynical way to ensure victory in next year's election.

Perhaps you think that I am jumping to conclusions and am attributing the Democrats with more intelligence and cynicism than they actually have? Well, that might be, but consider the fact that leading Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, refused to state an opinion on the Democratic surrender bill that granted unconditional funding to the
Iraq war, until they were certain it was going to pass. Then they voted against it. That way, they made sure that the war would go on and continue to be a pain in the ass for the Republicans, while still ensuring that they by voting against would gain credentials to please "anti-war" activists within the Democratic Party.


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