Thursday, February 15, 2007

More Congressional Action on Iraq

As Adam points out below, Senate Democrats are still making efforts to pass their non-binding resolution condemning the surge in forces in Iraq. And as I blogged about the other day, House Democrats are looking to attach strings to funding requests that will limit how troops can be used in Iraq. As this Associated Press article Adam sent to me points out, this effort is being led by Rep. Murtha:
Bush has asked Congress to approve $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressional Democrats are hoping to insert provisions that would make it harder for the administration to follow through on its plan to deploy an additional 21,500 combat troops to Iraq.

Rep. John Murtha...has said the measure may be changed to require that any troops deployed must meet formal Army readiness standards.

And while I approve wholeheartedly of these measures, there may be more to this than meets the eye (via TalkLeft):
Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.

Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself.

The legislative strategy will be supplemented by a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign designed to pressure vulnerable GOP incumbents into breaking with President Bush and forcing the administration to admit that the war is politically unsustainable.

As described by participants, the goal is crafted to circumvent the biggest political vulnerability of the anti-war movement -- the accusation that it is willing to abandon troops in the field. That fear is why many Democrats have remained timid in challenging Bush, even as public support for the president and his Iraq policies have plunged.

And now we have a problem. Because as I said just the other day (prompted by Glenn Greenwald's questions about liberal bloggers' motivations) we here at TWM are most assuredly not okay with Democrats stalling on Iraq because they are afraid of being labeled "soft" on national security. And this concern about "abandoning" troops in the field is merely one element of that argument (and the most illogical, at that.) Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft, who I cite to above, has a problem with it:
Does anyone really think that Democrats will be blamed for ending the war in Iraq? Only fools can believe this now. The REAL political risk for Democrats is exactly the opposite - joining Bush and the Republicans in being blamed for the continuation of the war.

In 2006, the Democrats had to be dragged kicking and screaming to firmly oppose the war in the campaign. Having done that and having acheived a smashing triumph, they now revert to their losing ways.

I understand that politics is a difficult business, and you don't want to overplay your hand for fear of giving your enemies the means by which to destroy you, but I can't help but agree with this assessment. Most polls indicate that nearly over 2/3 of the American public have a serious problem with the way the war is going, and a significant majority opposed the surge. Republicans have shot their credibility to shreds on this war, and the American people are looking for someone to take the lead in ending this war. Half-ass measures that reflect a strategy premised on avoiding blame for ending a war that most Americans want ended (including an ad campaign to convince Americans of what they already believe) make absolutely no sense to me.

Big Tent Democrats says most liberal bloggers disagree with him, and he cites to this round-up (scroll down to the Iraq II heading):
MyDD's Chris Bowers sums up the community's feelings about Dem actions on Iraq up to this point: "Our current votes are symbolic. The escalation is already happening. Overall, the situation is actually worse than when we won the election more than three months ago. In this environment, frustration seems to understandably be mounting." Considering these sentiments, lefty reaction to Murtha's plan includes:

The Carpetbagger Report: "The strategy is being backed by a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign, which will presumably pressure wavering Dems and vulnerable Republicans on this. ... I don't know all of the details, but for what it's worth, the right seems to be nearly apoplectic about Murtha's plan, which leads me to think it probably has merit."

Booman Tribune: "[the right wing] want[s] Democrats to simply cut off funding if they oppose the war, not strangle the deployment process. I would actually sympathize with their argument if we could actually overcome a Republican filibuster and cut off funding. But we can't, so this is the only option for ending the war. And that is just the way it is.

The Huffington Post's Shelly Lewis: "It's a relief to see some of the Democratic leaders actually trying to lead."
Explaining his support for the Murtha plan, Bowers reasons: "It also provides cover for the many extremely cautious and calcified Democrats who still cower in fear at every Republican attack, and who give credence to every conservative narrative in our political discourse. ... This is not, obviously, a quick end to the war that most of us here, and most people in America, would desire. It is, however, a realistic means of achieving our shared goal that is actually moving forward. ... we have to end the war with the Democratic Party we have, rather than the Democratic Party we want."
To Bowers comment I can only say "Huh?" If I recall correctly, pre-November 7th, most of the liberal blogosphere was railing against the Democrats who were willing to sign onto the Military Commissions Act, or were unwilling to take stands against the war, regardless of any political considerations being tossed around with the mid-terms in mind. But comments like this make me wonder if Greenwald has a point. Democrats come to power, and suddenly it's "end the war with the Democratic Party we have, rather than the Democratic Party we want"? (And please explain to me how re-working an infamous quote by the now disgraced Donald Rumsfeld is supposed to support a point.)

Fortunately, despite Big Tent Democrat's note of frustration, four blogs do not "most liberal bloggers" make. I'm willing to hope that the only reason other bloggers have not come out against this approach is because they have to see the Politico report I cite above on the new Democratic strategy, or if they have, they misunderstand the Democrat's choices as being only between ending funding tomorrow and attaching strings to money they do send over, as Booman seems in the excerpt above.

For what it's worth, no, the war will not end tomorrow. Republicans will block any and all efforts to stop the surge, to de-fund the war, to bring troops home, etc., etc. It will take time to rally the people behind Democratic efforts to end the war. But a strategy to avoid blame for having done so does not comport with the Democratic party I voted for in November.


Nat-Wu said...

What is wrong with these people? The public wants a solution to the problem! If the Dems go soft now and try to avoid any possible blame from any possible direction, they're going to lose the trust of the people who elected them. Now is not the time to play politics, or rather now is the time to play hardball politics and ram through good legislation.

adam said...

Well, I guess I'm in the minority here in support of Murtha's plan. Maybe Democrats are afraid to outright cut the funds, but legislation that will pass is an important consideration in terms of actually getting something done to bring about a drawdown of troops. Furthermore, the plan would achieve the same goal, since from what I understand none of our units in Iraq can meet the stringent standard of readiness Murtha's bill will require, and thus make Bush's deployment of 160,000 troops impossible.

Xanthippas said...

Well to be clear, I don't have a problem with the substance of the plan. I have a problem with the motivation, in that it bespeaks an unwillingness to take stronger action that the public might support. I would much, much rather see them try harder and be blocked by the Republicans, than push only so hard to avoid a ridiculous slur that most Americans won't buy anyway.

adam said...

I would agree, except what is better: pick the method that can achieve similar results which can pass, or try the more pure method which would be blocked by Republicans? That just seems counterproductive.

Nat-Wu said...

It's not really an either/or situation. You set one plan in motion knowing it'll get stopped by Repubs, but you let them do that in order to shoot themselves in the foot. And you throw in Murtha's plan. But Xanthippas is right. The Democrats don't need to be trying to avoid being painted in a certain light when doing so makes them seem weak. They have a public mandate now. If the public sees them politicking over the issue when they've been told what to do, they'll lose that mandate.

Whatever you think, it is not a good idea for the Dems to appear wishy-washy at this point, but that's exactly what they're doing as they're trying to avoid Republican accusations. I say it's better if they openly argue with the Repubs. Throw it in their faces, and let the public see that it is the Republican dogs obeying the call of their master that are blocking the will of the people.

Xanthippas said...

I guess that's how I feel about it too. Obviously for tactical reasons you don't want to give the Republicans opportunities to claim some sort of victory, but at the same time, was their stopping of the resolution in the Senate really a victory? Again, I know that there are limits to what can be done, and Democrats must be realistic. But if this strategy is premised on avoiding a ridiculous accusation that most Americans don't buy, then there is something wrong.

Either way we may not be arguing about effect right now, so much as intent. But I worry that intent will have an effect as the Democrats push harder to end this war.