Hogan's Alley

Monday, March 12, 2007

Micromanaging The War

The Democrats in Congress, driven inexorably by the polls, are slowly but unsurely, wending their way toward passage of a horrid bill. This legislation, which will surely be vetoed by Bush, calls for the meeting of specific benchmarks by the Iraqi government, specific training and equipment requirements meant solely to slow the rotation of new troops. The bill also demands the withdrawal of American troops by 2008, presumably so the next, possibly Democratic, President will not have to actually make any decisions about Iraq that might come back to haunt the Dems if terrorists conclude that our withdrawal is an open invitation to attack us again.

In an editorial today, the LA Times decries their tinkering:

This is not to say that Congress has no constitutional leverage — only that it should exercise it responsibly. In a sense, both Bush and the more ardent opponents of the war are right. If a majority in Congress truly believes that the war is not in the national interest, then lawmakers should have the courage of their convictions and vote to stop funding U.S. involvement. They could cut the final checks in six months or so to give Bush time to manage the withdrawal. Or lawmakers could, as some Senate Democrats are proposing, revoke the authority that Congress gave Bush in 2002 to use force against Iraq.

But if Congress accepts Bush's argument that there is still hope, however faint, that the U.S. military can be effective in quelling the sectarian violence, that U.S. economic aid can yet bring about an improvement in Iraqi lives that won't be bombed away and that American diplomatic power can be harnessed to pressure Shiites and Sunnis to make peace — if Congress accepts this, then lawmakers have a duty to let the president try this "surge and leverage" strategy.

By interfering with the discretion of the commander in chief and military leaders in order to fulfill domestic political needs, Congress undermines whatever prospects remain of a successful outcome. It's absurd for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to try to micromanage the conflict, and the evolution of Iraqi society, with arbitrary timetables and benchmarks.

The irony of the current Democratic stance is that it fails to acknowledge the significant changes and corrections taken by the administration. Rumsfeld is thankfully gone. Gen. Petraeus is now in charge in Iraq and has planned this surge with a different set of tactics than were used by his predecessors. Although there are some hopeful signs, it is still too early to know if his approach will work. If Congress didn't believe his plan could work, why the hell did they confirm him almost unanimously? It is now as if Democrats are hoping for the worst possible news out of Iraq. If success seems to be growing they will look increasingly foolish. Are they now rooting for chaos?

As the Times notes, it is as if the Congress in early 1863 suddenly demanded an end to the Civil War soon after President Lincoln finally bit the bullet and fired the ineffective Gen. McClellan and replaced him with U.S. Grant. If Petraeus is good, then let him do his job, for at least long enough for a fair judgment about the probable outcome of his approach to controlling the sectarian violence in Baghdad.

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