The Answers Project is an attempt by dkos members to compile a collection of short cogent editorials on political topics. The editorials are designed to appeal to the politically moderate who are, as of yet, unconvinced by some of our liberal opinions.
This is, as the name suggests, about providing liberals on the ground with ready made answers to questions they encounter in the real world. After a vigorous political debate with someone a liberal can come here and find a short piece that speaks directly to a particular point of contention and email it to their friend.
This is a place to keep all of our 'really good points' that get used in blogs everyday and then disappear into the nether regions of cyberspace. We can collect our best examples and arguments and begin using them effectively.
How does this work?
Is there that one issue, or that one point that you always seem to use to nail your conservative friends? Add it to the Answers Project list and help your fellow liberals be just as persuasive.
Remember that this is a cooperative effort. If you think of a topic that should be covered but don't know what to say, add it and leave it blank for now. Read through the topics and see if you can provide a critical piece of (cited) information or a particularly powerful angle on an argument.
Always think about your target. These are meant for people to use in their personal lives with specific people, so each essay should be as tailored and as specific as possible. No 'Republicans are bad' or 'Clinton was awesome' essays. Instead try to hit specific debate points upon which two people might get stuck: 'Republicans have more scandals than Democrats' or 'Clinton decreased the size of the federal budget.' Also an essay about impeaching Bush is probably intended for a democrat who just isn't convinced Bush has broken specific laws while an essay about Bush's deficit spending would be targeted at a Republican.
Each essay should be no longer than 500 words and should be as fact based as possible. These are designed to be emailed and so should include links to reputable news sources if necessary to demonstrate or support a point.
Did Bush cut taxes?
One of the oft cited successes of the Bush Presidency is his initial tax cut package. The $1.3 trillion dollar package is still clung to by some conservatives as an example that Bush did the most important thing for a Republican to do: cut taxes. However, upon further inspection the Bush presidency has not lowered taxes for the vast majority of Americans in the long run.
Bush's tax cuts were across the board. Americans from almost all income brackets received some tax relief. The result at the end of this tax shuffle is that lower and middle income individuals were paying less absolute taxes (the amount of money paid each year was less) however their relative tax was higher (the percentage of total taxes that they paid). cite
Why does this matter? If the lower/middle class is paying less taxes, then it is paying less taxes, who cares if they are contributing a higher percentage to total Federal taxes? It matters because it means that when the government runs a deficit (as it tends to do under Bush) then the amount of that deficit that 'belongs' to the lower/middle class is higher.
If there is a $100 billion dollar deficit that money (plus interest) has to be collected from the American people at some point in the future. For every percentage point that the lower/middle classes' tax burden has increased they will owe another billion dollars toward the debt that deficit created.
In the end the lower/middle classes end up paying more taxes than they ever would have without the tax cuts. Bush has managed to shift the tax burden down the income ladder and by running deficits at the same time the Bush Presidency's tax legacy will be one of higher taxes for the vast majority of Americans.
Bush has broken the law
Gonzales has broken the law
Cheney has broken the law
Stem Cell Research
Gotta finish the job
When asked what military objectives still remain unaccomplished that could require 160,000 plus troops on the ground, the most common conservative responses are "wiping out Al-Qaeda" or "battling the insurgents until the Iraqi government can do so on its own".
With regard to "wiping out Al-Qaeda", I point out the goals of Al-Qaeda are rooted in an anti-Western ideology propogated by Wahabi madrassas in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia. If you were able to kill every member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq by snapping your fingers they would still not be "wiped out", since the problem originates from outside of Iraq (virtually all Al-Qaeda members are non-Iraqis). The arguably laudable goal of keeping Al-Qaeda from gaining a foothold in Iraq cannot be addressed until the schools of thought which promote their brand of radicalism (prejoritively funded by Saudi Arabia) are dealt with.
To suggest the US military is going to "wipe out" an ideology from the barrel of an M-16 (in Iraq or anywhere else) is imperialism at its worse. History has certainly taught us that such brute-force methods do more for recruitment of such ideologies (by creating a culture of martyrdom), as well as inspiring splinter groups to join the "resistance" against imperialistic aggression. Arguably Al-Qaeda’s primary goal on 9/11/01 was to provoke a war in the Middle East in order to benefit from an increased ability to recruit and spread their message.
In response to the notion of "battling insurgents until the Iraqi government can do so on its own", it typically has to be pointed out to conservatives that the vast majority of insurgents are Iraqis. These local insurgents embody that resistance, explaining the original sanctuary extended to foreign Al-Qaeda fighters and the petrie dish in which its anti-Western sentiment has been allowed to flourish.
Fortunately for the US, as the extremism associated with the Al-Qaeda ideology has been exposed, the religious leaders of the individual provinces are now finally stepping into the void. As recommended by Mohammed Hafez in his book "Suicide Bombers in Iraq", the best way to defeat Al-Qaeda is to allow their radicalism to be exposed for what it is. The Sunnis have reached the tipping point where the Sunni deaths at the hands of Al-Qaeda are outweighing any resistance support they provided against American troops. Thus, suddenly, these religious/provincial leaders are now becoming partners the US military, enjoying some measure of success in taking back their communities. General Petraeus is working to replicate success stories from other provinces based on this model and has expressed frustration dealing with senior central Iraqi government leadership.
The central Iraqi government is phoning it in (quite literally, since they are now on vacation), while its citizens on the ground that have to deal with the day-to-day problems created by the vacuum of leadership appear to be finally asserting themselves. We can all applaud that progress, such as it is, but it certainly doesn't take 160,000+ US troops to assist provincial authorities. This leaves our military functioning as a police force, when we should be training those provincial resources (as opposed to those nominated by an ineffective central government) to provide for their own security. In short, we have been setting top-down governmental benchmarks, when we should be setting (and assisting local authorities in meeting) bottom-up benchmarks.
No credible Democratic presidential candidate (with the exception of Richardson) has called for a precipitous fast-track total withdrawal of American troops. Most plans, by contrast, call for a draw-down of US forces as an incentive for the Iraqi central government to finally get down to providing for the welfare of those that elected it. The clocks in Washington and Baghdad are not synchronized, but since American citizens are footing the bill in terms of tax dollars and lost lives, it is more so in our interest to accelerate the Baghdad clock then it is to slowing down the Washington clock. If the conservatives have another plan that speeds up the Baghdad clock, I'm all ears.
Leaving now just means coming back later
No credible candidate, with the exception of Richardson, has spoken of completely leaving. Our candidates, for the most part, suggest the US maintain an over-the-horizon capability, to assist Iraqis, when called upon, in large-scale operations. Such a presence will also help deter foreign interventionism from Syria, Turkey, and Iran. Such a force also helps secure the Persian Gulf, an economic necessity we, as Americans, shouldn't be too proud of.
Again, I would ask conservatives, what military objectives are 160,000+ troops accomplishing that Iraqis shouldn't be achieving for themselves? We can provide large-scale support for ANY Iraqi-led operation with a contingent 10% of that size.
Fight them there so we don't fight them here
I'm not sure who the "them" is in the case. It's certainly not the Iraqi insurgents, the vast majority of whom are citizens. With respect to Al-Qaeda, their recruits have been shown to be largely from poor backgrounds, lured by promises of money, with neither the means nor wherewithal to get "here".
Also, sectarian violence, which makes up a large measure of the lack of security within Iraq, has absolutely nothing to do with the United States. Sunnis and Shia are not looking to extend their differences with each other to the United States.
With respect to the larger Al-Qaeda ideology, we are already fighting them here, lest anyone forget the WTC 1 parking lot bombings or 9/11. Sharing intelligence, securing ports and, in general, heightening our vigilance towards terrorism goes a much longer way towards lowering our risk of another attack at home than 160,000+ troops in a foreign theatre against no readily discernable enemy.