Frame #3: The "Regional Stability" Frame Major Proponent: Wesley Clark Key Points: - Iraq is a regional conflict. - The U.S. occupation of Iraq has isolated Iraq from regional neighbors. - Success in Iraq depends on U.S. catalyzing regional cooperation....

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Frameshop, 07/05/2006

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Frame #3:   The "Regional Stability" Frame
Major Proponent:   Wesley Clark
Key Points: - Iraq is a regional conflict.
- The U.S. occupation of Iraq has isolated Iraq from regional neighbors.
- Success in Iraq depends on U.S. catalyzing regional cooperation.
- For America to achieve that goal, Democrats must convince regional allies U.S. action is not a threat.
- As long as we refuse to engage in regional diplomacy, Iraq will not be stable.

The third alternative to the Republican view of Iraq is the "Regional Stability" frame, promoted by a variety of Democrats, but associated most clearly with Presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

The Logic of the "Regional Stability" Frame
The logic of the "Regional Stability" frame can be seen in this snippet from Wesley Clark's "Op-Ed" about Iraq in the Washington Post (Aug 26, 2005):

In the old, familiar fashion, mounting US casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war. Now, more than half the American people believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right. But it would also be a mistake now to pull out, start pulling out, or set a date to pull out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq – a strategy the Administration has failed to develop and articulate.

From the outset of the American post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy – diplomatic, political, and military. Iraq sits geographically on the fault-line between Shia and Sunni Islam – and for the mission to succeed we will have to be the catalyst for regional cooperation. Iraq cannot be "isolated from its neighbors and tensions in the region. We needed to engage Iraq's neighbors to insure that a stable, democratizing Iraq was not a threat to them, to isolate Iraq from outside supplies, leadership, and manpower, and to gain from them resources and support to alleviate the burdens on the US.

This logic "Regional Stability" frame becomes clear if we think about this statement in terms of the U.S. military intervention in Bosnia.  This frame talks about a 'three-pronged' approach, drawing on langauge that evokes a stable structure (e.g., the three 'prongs' of politics, diplomacy and military).  The goal is to bring Iraq's regional allies into 'cooperation' so that it is no longer 'isolated' from 'neighbors.' 

The "Regional Stability" frame is a political strategy designed to cast the Democratic Party as a force that seeks to resolve regional problems in the world, the key to protecting humanitarian interests--a vital Democratic Party value.

The Strengths of the "Regional Stability" Frame
The strength of this frame is its pragmatism.  From the moment we begin to speak of 'three-pronged-approaches, the debate shifts to a much more realistic and "on the ground" tone.  This frame does not sound politicized at all.   

The other strengths of this frame is that it is build on previous success of the U.S. to resolve a very complicated military problem (Bosnia), and the absence of any loud or pressing critique of the Bush White House.  This frame is about getting things done.

The Weakness of the "Regional Stability" Frame
The real weakness of this frame is that it lacks any specifics, but seems to need them.  How is the military approach of this frame different than what is already on the ground?  It is not clear.

Conclusion:  A Frame For Democrats Who See U.S. Action In Bosnia As A Success To Be Emulated
For Democrats who want to build on the success of previous U.S. military actions in recent decades, this is the frame they will gravitate towards.  General Clark  is a symbol of a pragmatic solution to what was a very difficult--seemingly intractable--problem in Europe.  That problem is now gone.  So, the logic of a return to the successful 'team' and 'leaders' of the previous conflict is clear.

The big question that hangs over this frame, however,  is whether those details can be translated into the particular situation in Iraq, and whether the movement Neo-Con radicals with a griphold on U.S. power can be displaced.


©  2006 Jeffrey Feldman

© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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