Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cut and Run? John Murtha's Counsel of Defeat

Representative John Murtha's been the Democrat's most vocal advocate for immediate withdraw from Iraq. The Wall Street Journal slammed his defeatist policy prescription in an editorial yesterday. Here's a excerpt:

American and Iraqi forces are on the offensive once again, deploying around the terrorist stronghold of Ramadi and beginning a drive to bring order to Baghdad. This is welcome news, not least because it underscores how wrong and defeatist Congressman Jack Murtha and his Democratic colleagues are in demanding an immediate U.S. withdrawal in Iraq.

With a new Iraq government finally in place, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi dead, now would be the worst time to tell Iraqis they are on their own. This is the moment to capitalize on this recent run of good news to show the Iraqi public, Sunnis and Shiites both, that the insurgency cannot win. If this requires more American troops and more offensive operations for some months to come, then that is what the Bush Administration should now consider.

It's in this context that last week's votes on Iraq in Congress are so important. President Bush's surprise visit to Baghdad did a lot to assure Iraqis about U.S. resolve. But the free Iraqi media have also made Iraqis acutely aware of debates in the Congress, especially with the American media trumpeting Mr. Murtha's demands for a U.S. retreat and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi describing the war as a "grotesque mistake."

So it was a good idea for Republican leaders to put Democrats on record and see if they really had the courage of their antiwar convictions. On Friday, the House voted 256 to 153 to approve a nonbinding resolution acknowledging Iraq as a central front in the war on terror and asserting that "it is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops. The 153 votes for retreat included three Republicans.

Over in the Senate, meanwhile, former Democratic standard bearer John Kerry was embarrassed Thursday when Republican Mitch McConnell offered for a vote on the floor the text of a withdrawal resolution that Mr. Kerry had been promoting. Democrats cried foul and helped reject the resolution by 93-6. But the vote was useful for exposing Democrats who say the U.S. should leave Iraq but don't want to be responsible for the consequences of their proposal.

The votes were also useful in exposing the kind of policy that the Kerry-Murtha Democrats would pursue if they retake Congress in November. Some three-fourths of House Democrats have now put themselves on record as favoring precipitous withdrawal. This is a policy that even their own potential 2008 standard bearer, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has said is not a smart strategy. And it is surely an issue that voters should be aware of as they head for the polls....

Which brings us back to the Bush Administration and the current opportunity in Iraq. President Bush has himself sometimes sounded as if he too is eager to draw down U.S. forces, and within the Army there is also a strong desire to come home. However, neither Republicans nor Army officers will get any political relief from a withdrawal unless the Iraq project is seen as successful. What frustrates Americans is taking casualties in an endless deployment without a strategy for victory. The only politically winning path to withdrawal is to help the new government provide security by beating the insurgency.

Iraq is different from Vietnam in many ways, but its main similarity is that any defeat won't be inflicted on the battlefield. The U.S. won big military victories at least twice in Vietnam, in the 1968 Tet offensive and the 1972 bombing campaign, only to squander them because of defeatism in Washington. The U.S. has sacrificed too much already in Iraq to withdraw just when victory once again looks possible.
Also yesterday, Betsy's Page had a couple of posts on Murtha, addressing his qualifications as a military expert and his call for a Somalia-like withdrawal.

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