Sunday, February 25, 2007

Some Thoughts on the Resolution

I meant to post this last week, when it was actually relevant, but was having technical difficulties at the time.

Last Saturday, the Washington Post editorial board absolutely eviscerated Representative John Murtha for his attempt to undermine the President's constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign policy by ending the war through subterfuge. Key quote:
Mr. Murtha has a different idea. He would stop the surge by crudely hamstringing the ability of military commanders to deploy troops. In an interview carried Thursday by the Web site, Mr. Murtha said he would attach language to a war funding bill that would prohibit the redeployment of units that have been at home for less than a year, stop the extension of tours beyond 12 months, and prohibit units from shipping out if they do not train with all of their equipment. His aim, he made clear, is not to improve readiness but to "stop the surge." So why not straightforwardly strip the money out of the appropriations bill -- an action Congress is clearly empowered to take -- rather than try to micromanage the Army in a way that may be unconstitutional? Because, Mr. Murtha said, it will deflect accusations that he is trying to do what he is trying to do. "What we are saying will be very hard to find fault with," he said.

Mr. Murtha's cynicism is matched by an alarming ignorance about conditions in Iraq. He continues to insist that Iraq "would be more stable with us out of there," in spite of the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that early withdrawal would produce "massive civilian casualties." He says he wants to force the administration to "bulldoze" the Abu Ghraib prison, even though it was emptied of prisoners and turned over to the Iraqi government last year. He wants to "get our troops out of the Green Zone" because "they are living in Saddam Hussein's palace"; could he be unaware that the zone's primary occupants are the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy?

Again, this is the Washington Post editorial board, not exactly a right-leaning institution.

Also, last weekend, retired Colonel Ralph Peters discussed the House's resolution in an op-ed in the New York Post. I think Peter's goes way too far in implying that the Democrats (and 17 Republicans) who voted for the Resolution are guilty of treason. This kind of hyperbole, much like Senator Reid's comment that Iraq is the "worst foreign policy mistake" in American history, produces more heat than illumination.

(By the way, Senator Reid, 52,000 more U.S. servicemen died in Vietnam than Iraq. You may want to ask their families which was worse, or for that matter, the millions of refugees our subsequent abandonment of South Vietnam caused, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis likely to die if we follow your policy of similarly abandoning Iraq. . . But that's for another post).

Peters' does make some good points when not going into hysterics. The resolution will not affect the morale of American troops. Those in the field have more pressing matters to worry about than what a bunch of politicians in Washington think and say. The real damage lies in the potential impact it has on the Iraqi moderates we are encouraging to stand up to the 5% fringes on each side of Iraqi society that are creating the horrific violence in Iraq. It is difficult to ask them to join the Iraqi Security Forces, to take political risks by reaching national reconciliation, and to radically restructure their economy away from Saddam's decrepit socialism and corruption if they will be left to assume all the risks for themselves in the very near future.

Iran is not going away. The former Ba'athists and Sunni extremists are not going away. But if these Iraqis -- whose security forces are taking casualties at a much higher rate than ours, by the way -- believe we are looking for the nearest exit, why should they make sacrifices for a democratic, multi-sectarian Iraq?

While the House was debating the Resolution, Ayman al-Zawahiri released a statement playing precisely to this fear:
The deputy also said US-allied governments in Iraq and Afghanistan should consider their future.

"These traitors in Iraq and Afghanistan must face their inevitable fate, and face up to the inescapable facts. America ... is about to depart and abandon them, just as it abandoned their like in Vietnam," he said.

Also, the obvious desperation to withdraw from Iraq does play in to Al Qaeda's strategy. In documents discovered in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, Al Qaeda discussed their lessons learned from Somalia:
There is an important observation that we must not ignore, which is that the Americans were not defeated militarily in Somalia. Effective human and economic losses were not inflicted on them. All that happened was that the Somali battle revealed many of their psychological, political, and perhaps military weaknesses.
The Somali experience confirmed the spurious nature of American power and that it has not recovered from the Vietnam complex. It fears getting bogged down in a real war that would reveal its psychological collapse at the level of personnel and leadership. Since Vietnam America has been seeking easy battles that are completely guaranteed.

I do not think the Congressmen who voted for the resolution did so with the intention of playing into Al Qaeda's strategy, nor do I question their patriotism. (Neither did Dick Cheney, for that matter). Although there are no doubt some who want to lost the war so as to embarrass President Bush, I believe most are sincere about supporting the troops and wanting to obtain the result in Iraq that bests safeguards American interests.

However, resolutions such as the one the House passed eight days ago do have consequences in terms of Iraqi behavior and enemy morale. I fear that although many Representatives voted for the Resolution because they believe it will improve the situation in Iraq, they did so unaware of the second-order effects it creates, effects that will make it harder for Iraqis to step up and solve their nation's problems.