Friday, July 13, 2007

Congress and the War

The details of the Iraq amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill from Republican Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar were released today:
The Warner-Lugar proposal states that "American military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not likely to abate anytime soon and probably cannot be controlled from the top."

Accordingly, Warner and Lugar say Bush must draft a plan for U.S. troops that would keep them from "policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in Iraq" and focus them instead on protecting Iraq's borders, targeting terrorists and defending U.S. assets...

The legislation the pair is working on would direct Bush to present the new strategy to Congress by Oct. 16 and begin implementing it by Dec. 31.

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization -- which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.
The latter part has already been set for a vote by Democrats in the Senate and House, though I don't see how de-authorizing the war really forces Bush's hand at this point. The first part basically sounds like the leading Democratic proposal under consideration, which the Senate plans to take up Monday, but without the requirements for troop withdrawal or a firm timetable. In my opinion, this leaves the plan toothless (though better than the non-binding Iraq Study Group recommendations certainly). Even if this could reach the 60-vote hurdle that the Democrats' plan probably won't reach, it'll be vetoed by Bush. Or maybe he'll sign it and say he'll change strategy without really doing so (we are seeing this double speak on long-term engagement and drawing down some troops from military leaders right now).

Unfortunately, there is only incremental change in the amount of support in Congress for a firm withdrawal deadline:
Yesterday’s 223-201 vote to draw down troop levels by next April fell far short of the 290 needed to override — and it added only five votes to the anti-war column compared with a similar vote last March. If that pace continues unchanged, picking up just five votes every four months, it would take at least a year for the House to add the 67 votes needed to wrest control of Iraq troop levels away from the president.

And by then there would be only a few months left of George W. Bush’s presidency. No wonder the president at his press conference yesterday stepped up the belligerent tone toward Congress. He knows he has a real chance to run out the clock.
Basically, the number of Republicans in the House who support withdrawal went from 2 to 4 and the number of Republicans in the Senate who support withdrawal went from 2 to 3 from the last time Congress voted on it. The bottom line is a lot more Republicans will need to cross over in September for it to make a difference, or Democrats will have to come to the point where they cut the funds. We just aren't there yet. Not nearly. And more of our troops are going to die in the meantime.

I hate to write so pessimistically on this subject. The movement of some Republicans is encouraging, but the war isn't ending anytime soon. And I honestly don't believe it will until a Democrat is in the White House. I hope I am wrong.

No comments: