Friday, January 26, 2007

The Greatest Threat to Victory in Iraq Is Democratic Debate in the U.S.

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As meaningless as a "nonbinding resolution" seems, the one the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved yesterday to register disapproval of Pres. Bush's escalation of the Iraq war must be more powerful than I had thought. It's driven rightie bloggers to start up a drive (called The Pledge) to refuse to fund any Republican who signs the nonbinding resolution.

Here's the text:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

Notice the subtle fact-tweaking in the first sentence: "... that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged...." The surge is not a response to Gen. Petraeus's request for more troops. It's not a response to anything except Bush's frantic efforts to keep punting until January 2009.

The Pledgers, however, have latched on to Petraeus's response to a question from Joe Lieberman:

Prompted by presidential hopeful and Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Petraeus spoke out against congressional attempts to pass resolutions of disapproval on the new White House strategy in Iraq, which includes a troop increase of 21,500.

In response to a question from McCain regarding the effect of such congressional resolutions on troops, Petraeus said, “It would not be a beneficial effect, sir.”

McCain supports sending additional U.S. troops to Iraq, and is at odds with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), another presidential hopeful and member of the Armed Services panel.

When Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a strong supporter of the Bush administration’s strategy for Iraq, later asked Petraeus whether the resolutions of disapproval would encourage the enemies in Iraq, the officer said: “That’s correct.”

Hugh Hewitt tells us what it means to "encourage the enemy":

It means that the enemy gathers will and strength from the prospect of a collapsing political will to seek victory in Iraq and stability in the region.

With that additional strength and will the enemy redoubles and retriples efforts to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

In short, it means that more Americans will die.

Shorter Hugh: Sending more troops to Iraq will not cause more troops to die. Voting for a nonbinding resolution that opposes sending those additional troops will cause more troops to die.

Paging George Orwell!

Questions, I have so many questions. Like, Isn't it war supporters who have been telling us for four years that "the enemy" hates "our freedoms"; and that's why "the enemy" is trying so hard to destroy us? So if we are exercising our freedoms by having a healthy and loud public debate about whether it's a wise or moral idea to send more Americans to Iraq, wouldn't that rather tend to discourage "the enemy"? You know, make "the enemy" think that all is lost, that's there's no more hope?

And like, If opposition to sending more troops "encourages the enemy," then weren't The Pledgers "encouraging the enemy" when they supported Donald Rumsfeld's refusal to send more troops even though our commanders on the ground in Iraq were begging for them?

And like, If "the enemy" gains strength and courage from seeing Americans divided and disagreeing with each other, will voting down a nonbinding resolution against the troop surge convince them that Americans are united in their support for the war and the troop surge? Do Iraqis not watch television and read newspapers and go online? Do they not know that two-thirds of Americans are opposed to sending more troops?

Glenn Greenwald has more, and as usual, it's quite stirring:

The idea that Americans should refrain from debating the propriety of using military force is about as foreign to our political traditions as anything can be. The Constitution -- while making the President the top General in directing how citizen-approved wars are fought -- ties the use of military force to the approval of the American citizenry in multiple ways, not only by prohibiting wars in the absence of a Congressional declaration (though it does impose that much-ignored requirement), but also by requiring Congressional approval every two years merely to have an army. In Federalist 26, this is what Alexander Hamilton said in explaining the rationale behind the latter requirement (emphasis in original):

The legislature of the United States will be obliged by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not at liberty to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.

As the spirit of party, in different degrees, must be expected to infect all political bodies, there will be, no doubt, persons in the national legislature willing enough to arraign the measures and criminate the views of the majority. The provision for the support of a military force will always be a favorable topic for declamation. As often as the question comes forward, the public attention will be roused and attracted to the subject, by the party in opposition; and if the majority should be really disposed to exceed the proper limits, the community will be warned of the danger, and will have an opportunity of taking measures to guard against it.

Public opposition is the key check on the ill-advised use of military force. In Federalist 24, Hamilton explained that the requirement of constant democratic deliberation over the American military is "a great and real security against military establishments without evident necessity."

Finding a way to impose checks on the President's war-making abilities was a key objective of the Founders. In Federalist 4, John Jay identified as a principal threat to the Republic the fact that insufficiently restrained leaders "will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."

There are countries where citizens have a duty to affirm the Leader's decisions and submit to the Supreme General's decrees about war. The U.S. isn't one of those countries (although, revealingly enough, that belief in submission to the decrees of authority and infallabile wisdom of Supreme Leaders is one of the defining attributes of "The Enemy" whom we are fighting). But as usual, the dwindling band of authoritarian extremists propping up this presidency don't believe in American values of any kind. Those values are merely props they use to justify their endless wars and their endless demands that the Leader's will be followed.

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