Thursday, April 26, 2007

No Sen. Reid, We Won...

...but our soldiers should be coming home.

I don't think I have to specifically say it - but I entirely disagree with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried when he said the other day that the war in Iraq "is lost."* I think that I have been unequivocally clear on this blog in stating that I think that we have already won this war. (Four Years...; Motivations...)

Sen. Reid was simply wrong in making such a statement, and David Broder has an appropriately frank column today saying so - Democrats have their own embarrassment in Reid:
Here's a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: "As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats — a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance."

If you answered Harry Reid, give yourself an A. and join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to come to an end.

President Bush's highly developed tolerance for egregious incompetence in his administration may have met its supreme test in Attorney General Gonzales, who at various times has taken complete responsibility for the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and also professed complete ignorance of the reasons for their dismissal. This demonstration of serial obfuscation so impressed the president that he rushed out to declare that Gonzales had "increased my confidence in his ability to do the job."

... Given the way the Constitution divides the war-making power between the president as commander in chief and Congress as the sole source of funds to support the armed services, it is essential that at some point Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be able to negotiate with the White House to determine the course America will follow from now until a new president takes office.

To say that Reid has sent conflicting signals of his readiness for such discussions is an understatement. It has been impossible for his own members, let alone the White House, to sort out what ground Reid is prepared to defend — for more than 24 hours at a time.

Instead of reinforcing the important proposition — defined by the Iraq Study Group — that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can still succeed.

The Democrats deserve better and the country needs more than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.

Well said. But saying that does NOT mean that the President should not be putting plans in place to bring our soldiers home. I'm not convinced the current bill that the Senate passed today (and the President promises to veto) is the best way to go about this. (As an aside, this ridiculous political pandering of the right-wing accusing the Democrats of delaying bullets and supplies to our troops, or putting our soldiers in danger by delaying this funding is beyond the pale. Such funding does no such thing - and additionally, the REPUBLICAN congress took almost TWICE as long to approve a similar supplemental spending bill last year. Such vitriolic ravings are merely straw-men being created by the Right.) My general thoughts are that we need to vote to fund the troops, and vote or simply pressure the President to change his failed policies separately. That negotiation process was commented on by a Houston Chronicle editorial today - War Powers:
Constitutional scholars teach that the Founders intended Congress and the president to tussle over the power to wage war. The president is commander in chief of the armed forces, yet Congress has the authority to declare war and the absolute power of the purse.

... Ronald Cass, dean emeritus of the Boston University Law School, usefully spoke on this subject Tuesday at a gathering of the Houston lawyers chapter of the Federalist Society. He noted Congress could cut off war-fighting funds on a date certain, but was unlikely to use this blunt club.

As for Congress' power to order redeployment of U.S. forces, Cass said that authority rested with the commander in chief. He compared the tactics of Democratic leaders to a young Catholic woman who confesses that she frequently looks at herself in the mirror and thinks herself pretty.

"Is this a sin, Father?" she asks.

"No," the priest replies. "It is only a mistake."

Is Congress wrong to try to hasten the end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq? No. Congress naturally wishes to affect the course of the war for the better, in this case cutting U.S. losses. Only its tactic of directing the disposition of U.S. forces is mistaken.

... Cass predicted Congress and the president eventually would negotiate the terms and amounts of continued appropriations for fighting the war. Given the Constitution's division of military powers and the troops' need for training, pay and equipment, a settlement is not only desirable, but essential.

Exactly. It's not wrong to try to end our involvement in Iraq - but this tactic does not seem be wise. We can all only hope that Congress finds the right way to negotiate with this administration - with the support of the American people as heavy pressure - to get our soldiers out of Iraq and back home. And they should come home as conquering heroes - because we've already won this war.

Because I believe that we have already won in Iraq, and it's time to bring our military home, I was opposed to Bush's Surge, and wrote so early this year. But once Bush decided to send more troops, I certainly was hoping that the Surge would work - so we could then bring our soldiers home. Initial reports from the administration seemed to be very positive about the impact of the Surge...which was encouraging. But recently, there has been a "counter-surge" in violent attacks in Iraq - and Tuesday, the administration made a disappointing disclosure - U.S. excludes bombs in touting drop in Iraq violence:
U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren't counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.

Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn't include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

President Bush explained why in a television interview on Tuesday. "If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory," he told TV interviewer Charlie Rose.

Others, however, say that not counting bombing victims skews the evidence of how well the Baghdad security plan is protecting the civilian population — one of the surge's main goals.

"Since the administration keeps saying that failure is not an option, they are redefining success in a way that suits them," said James Denselow, an Iraq specialist at London-based Chatham House, a foreign policy think tank.

...U.S. officials have said that they don't expect the security plan to stop bombings.

"I don't think you're ever going to get rid of all the car bombs," Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said this week. "Iraq is going to have to learn as did, say, Northern Ireland, to live with some degree of sensational attacks."

Some think that approach could backfire, with Iraqis eventually blaming the U.S. for failing to stop bombings.

"To win, the insurgents just have to prove they are not losing," said Denselow, of London's Chatham House.

If we've already won, we don't need a surge. So what is its point? Is Bush attempting to clutch the threads of a legacy he see's slipping away? The lives of our soldiers are too important to spend them securing a legacy.

We have won this war - let's bring our soldiers home.

* - I do feel the need to note that in the same Broder piece linked above, the colunmnist points out that Sen. Chuck Schumer attempted to explain Reid's 'this war is lost' statement like this:
"What Harry Reid is saying is this war is lost — in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. We are not going to solve that problem. ... The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this — we Democrats believe it. ... So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that's been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can't win. But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win."

With the limited point that Schumer is making, I probably wouldn't disagree (although I'd want to see the context). But, in my opinion, that narrow point is more likely a valiant attempt to justify what Sen. Reid said, and it less likely what Sen. Reid actually meant.

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