Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Give the Commander His Money!

"Republicans will … oppose efforts by Democrats to undermine the ability of General Petraeus and our troops to achieve victory in the Global War on Terror." – House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

[Reported by ]

Boehner was talking about opposition to a generous House military spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that also sets September 1, 2008 as the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

Does setting a withdrawal deadline undermine the ability of the General and his troops to achieve victory in the Global War on Terror, as Boehner says?

1. Is there a Global War on Terror? The phrase lacks any concrete meaning. It is a carte blanche for military adventurism and political and economic aggression anywhere in the world, including within the U.S. It is a specious slogan, but apparently, it continues to fool many Americans.

2. Does the war in Iraq have anything to do with protecting the U.S. from terrorism? Iraqi militants use terrorist tactics against their own civilians and against U.S. troops, so we are fighting terrorism in Iraq. But that could be because we invaded their country and overthrew their government. If we weren’t fighting these terrorists in Iraq, would we be fighting them in New York? That seems pretty far fetched. Militants in Iraq are fighting for control of Iraq. It’s probably true that there are international terrorist elements in Iraq now, drawn there by our invasion. By staying in Iraq we do nothing to dissuade them.

3. Can General Petraeus and his troops achieve victory on the alleged Global War on Terror? Defeat of all terrorists in the world by one general in Iraq is utter nonsense. So Boehner must have meant that Petraeus et al. strive for victory only in the war in Iraq. What would victory look like? The death or capture of every terrorist and potential terrorist in Iraq? That’s unreasonable, especially since the borders are not even sealed. Forget victory.

What about success? Success has to mean, at least,

a) that internecine fighting would cease or be reduced to negligible levels,

b) an Iraqi government would assure a reasonable level of military, economic, social, and political stability, so that

c) U.S. troops would no longer be necessary in Iraq.

I can visualize the kind of journey that the Israelis and Palestinians have followed. Success will not come any time soon. We made a mistake. Why not admit it?

4. Is it really the intention of the House Democrats to undermine the military efforts of U.S. troops? No. The intent is to halt their efforts entirely. The stated goal is to withdraw the troops by a fixed date. Nothing could be more clear.

If the president vetoes the spending bill, (should it reach his desk) as he has promised to do, presumably because of the troop withdrawal deadline, he will have to

a. come up with the money to fight the war from elsewhere, or

b. cease fighting the war and bring the troops home, or

c. continue fighting, on the cheap, with radical cost cutting.

There is no way he would cease the war and bring the troops home. He started the war for self-aggrandizement and he certainly will not sacrifice his ego to end it. That’s out.

Where else could he get the money to fight? If he tried to divert money from education, social security, or almost any domestic program to the war, congress would not allow it. There’s a ton of money in defense, intelligence and space budgets. He could conceivably slash those to finance the war, to the long term detriment of the country.

What about cutting the cost of fighting the war, essentially stretching every dollar? That could work for a little while, until inevitably, the choppers fell from the sky and the armored vehicles no longer started up. Then it would be a disaster for U.S. troops. Would he care, or would he relish disaster, to be blamed on the Democrats after he’s out of office?

The Democrats have some momentum and there is a chance a poison-pill spending bill could pass both houses. I think the stakes are too high if it does.

A lower risk strategy is to let the president continue to bleed the country dry until the ’08 election. It’s his right to do so as the Commander in Chief. The electorate should take notice and then do the right thing in ’08.

Worst case, a new Republican president would see the necessity of ending the war on some pretext or other. It’s not likely the people would elect another extremist.

The Democrats should just give him the money and let him hang himself with it. It will cost many more young lives that way, but that is the option of the Commander and he was freely elected by the people.

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