Friday, May 18, 2007

Congress Needs to Support the War

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a great editorial on the absence of congressional backbone on war funding policy for Iraq. Here's the introduction:

Democrats in the Senate yesterday demonstrated, once again, that they neither have the votes for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq nor a real policy on the war.

Wednesday's vote to cut off funding by March 31, 2008, was voted down 67-29, with 19 Democrats joining every Republican in opposing the measure, which was submitted as an amendment to an unrelated bill. Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who put forth the measure with Majority Leader Harry Reid, noted optimistically that a majority of his caucus voted for the measure, which is one way of defining majority down.

There seemed to be some ambivalence, moreover, even among the 29 who supported the measure. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both voted for Mr. Feingold's amendment, but they also indicated that it was more about sending a message than setting policy. We recall Bob Dole's legendary advice to a freshman Republican that he couldn't go wrong voting for a bill that failed. The two Democrats thus don't give competitor John Edwards any running room on the antiwar left, but they also don't have to take responsibility. Ah, war-time leadership.

The Democrats, in other words, remain trapped in the land of symbolism over the war. Taking up the responsibility that the "power of the purse" gives them does not seem to be on the agenda. They'd rather posture, appeasing their party's left wing without taking ownership of war policy. This evasiveness won't let them off the hook, however. The political consequences of defeat won't only belong to President Bush. To the extent that Democrats are making the conduct of the war more difficult and less certain, they already bear responsibility for the war's outcome whether they like it or not.
But the Journal's editorialists don't stop with the Democrats. As I noted in one of my recent post on the promise of the troop surge in Iraq, a number of Republicans are also getting on board with the Democrats' "benchmarks" and "timetables" surrender agenda.

This comes despite the fact that the troop surge is not yet even fully deployed and certainly hasn't been given a chance to work. The fifth U.S. brigade for Baghdad won't even arrive until June.
Until that brigade deploys -- and U.S. forces in Iraq enjoy the full complement of troops promised under the administration's new strategy -- we need to defer to military leaders on the ground, and we must continue to push for the patient resolve of the American public.

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