Iraq Policy in a GOP Congressional Primary

The mostly indirect (in the sense that all of them are attacking Barack Obama) war of words between neocons and “non-interventionists” in the Republican Party over Iraq policy that’s playing out in op-eds and Sunday Shows has spilled over into at least one hot congressional primary, right here in Georgia. As noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Jim Galloway, 11th district runoff candidates Barry Loudermilk and Bob Barr are taking significantly different positions on Iraq, with “constitutional conservative” Loudermilk opposing any further U.S. involvement, and the one-time Libertarian Party presidential nominee Barr supporting immediate air strikes. Both men, interestingly enough, supported the 2003 Iraq Invasion, and Barr voted for the congressional authorization for it. Both of them also now have harsh things to say about the “spreading democracy” rationale for toppling Saddam Hussein in the first place. It should be noted that the 11th district is not a very dove-friendly place; aside from its conservatism, it’s home to Dobbins Air Force Base and a huge Lockheed-Martin facility.

Loudermilk, who led Barr in the May 20 primary and is currently the favorite in the July 22 runoff, clearly thinks his skeptical position on Iraq is the wave of the immediate future:

For his part, Loudermilk said that he is part of a larger shift in Republican attitudes. Obama’s abandoned proposal to strike at Syria last year provided a lesson, Loudermilk said. “The people said no, we don’t need to engage in somebody else’s civil war unless there is a clear and present danger to American interests,” he said….

Loudermilk is no isolationist. But he points to looming crises on the horizon – a rising China and a Russia with hopes of returning to days of past glory, and argues that America needs to keep its powder dry….

He admits his less-than-specific answers are unusual for a GOP primary – particularly in debates before large crowds. “We could have fired up the crowd and said, ‘Yeah, let’s drop a couple of tactical nukes over there and turn part of Iraq into glass.’ But that’s not where we are,” Loudermilk said.

It’s a hell of a note to feel encouraged when a conservative Republican pol passes up an opportunity to call for nuking Arabs. But to paraphrase Loudermilk, that’s where we are.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.