Escapist politics, courtesy of Iraq 

So how, exactly, does it change the course of human events for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to urge an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq?Sitting in their chamber 3,000 miles from Washington, D.C., the supes possess no constitutional authority to make such a pull-out happen. Indeed, the concept of municipal foreign policy is of recent and dubious provenance. But we forget: These are the days of nonbinding resolutions and cheap posturing, when just declaring your moral superiority substitutes for an unattainable strategic retreat.

If you are President Bush, you feel no obligation to heed seven local pols who’d see you impeached before welcoming democracy to Iraq. Reinforcing troop strength, you focus on pacifying Baghdad, where an elected government just might outlast terrorist insurgents.

If you are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, how are you supposed to process the hometown headline? Are you to feel empowered now that your closest constituents have registered their absolutist anti-war opinion? But you have just ducked a meeting with the "Code Pink" activists who camped outside your San Francisco home. You need to fly back to Capitol Hill and accommodate your party’s moderates, who fear the bloody consequences once, by defunding the war, they should create a power vacuum in the Middle East. So you don’t actually defund our military engagement; you pass resolutions.

If you are Chris Daly, the board’s most activist progressive, perhaps you imagine you can stiffen the speaker’s spine by sending a message tapping into Bay Area politics. Those sentiments, of course, can be summarized as war weariness before the war even started. But your grasp of history is tenuous: The "greatest generation" was likewise weary at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, but something in the American character held back if an ambitious demagogue contemplated a premature withdrawal from Europe.

No, your historical template is the Vietnam war, the irresolute prosecution of which enabled the cultural iconization of anti-war activists. You can be one of them, too, and, by mobilizing the politicaldescendants of the old anti-war movement, you can fuel your own ascendancy. You can draft a resolution expressing your grief over the loss in Iraq of "3,100 brave soldiers," though you might not have felt such tender solicitude for the even higher mortality numbers, in peace and war, tallied during the last three American presidencies.

If you are a jihadist or an Al Qaeda terrorist determined to set up a new caliphate in Mesopotamia, the better to destroy Western civilization, perhaps you’ll take notice of The City’s peaceful purposes and exempt it from your target list. Or not.

If you are one of the other six supervisors who voted for Daly’s resolution, your thoughts are not readily comprehensible. One thing’s certain: You’re not thinking about homicides, mudslides, transportation, housing or broken water mains.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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