Saturday, January 06, 2007

Willya Wontcha Doya Dontcha Really Really Want To Hedge Your Bets

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The three positions in Congress about sending more troops to Iraq:

  1. We should send them there for 18 months to two years.
  2. We should send them there for six months to one year.
  3. We shouldn't send them there.

Republican warmongers such as Sen. John McCain, Army Gen. Jack Keane, and Frederick Kagan want to send 30,000 additional troops to Iraq and keep them there for 18 months to two years. Other Republicans -- those who are up for reelection in 2008 -- have temporarily set aside their enthusiasm for keeping the defense contractors happy, in favor of keeping their own jobs. This group favors supporting Pres. Bush's expected request for a troop surge, as long as it comes with a "promise" that the troops will only be in Iraq for "six months or a year, tops."

As for the new Democratic majority in Congress, they are supposedly taking a strong position against sending any additional troops at all to Iraq -- by "strongly encouraging" pleading with Pres. Bush, in a letter signed by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, to "take [their] views into consideration." However, the abject language makes one wonder whether the Democrats realize that -- as Marty Lederman put it -- "they can do something to make it happen":

Surely Reid and Pelosi know that they can do much more than simply plead with the President to "take their views into consideration"! If this truly does represent the views of a majority of both Houses (as appears likely -- there's already a great deal of Republican opposition to the "surge" proposal, too), then Congress should pass a law prohibiting the "surge," and requiring the phased redeployment.

The beginning of the letter is absolutely correct: "The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq." The power is in their hands. If this is the most imporant pending issue -- and the American public overwhelmingly agrees that it is -- then shouldn't this be the very top legislative priority?

Yes, of course Bush might veto such a bill. And perhaps such a veto could not be overriden (although I would not be too sure about that). But even in that case, the lines of responsibility between the President and the Congress will be drawn even more starkly and clearly -- which would, I think, only be worthwhile, both for the Democrats themselves and for the Nation.

Sen. Carl Levin has decided to be the radical of the bunch:

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who backs plans to gradually withdraw troops from Iraq, said he could support an increase in troops as long as the Iraqi government first took concrete steps toward achieving political reconciliation within the country.

"That at least puts pressure on Iraqis," Levin said. "That's what I would call 'hard conditionality.' "

I don't know about that. I think I would call it "soft wimpiness."

Anyway, we all know (or at least we all should know) that when push comes to shove, Congress's rubber knees will stretch as needed to give Pres. Bush whatever he asks for -- even if Bush has to accede to some vague agreement to "revisit" the policy after so-and-so-and-something months.

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