Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Democrats' Iraq "Readiness Strategy"

With the House debate on Iraq in Day 2, new details of the Democratic strategy to end the war are becoming public. From
Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.

Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself.
. . .
Murtha, the powerful chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will seek to attach a provision to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. It would restrict the deployment of troops to Iraq unless they meet certain levels adequate manpower, equipment and training to succeed in combat. That's a standard Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet.

In addition, Murtha, acting with the backing of the House Democratic leadership, will seek to limit the time and number of deployments by soldiers, Marines and National Guard units to Iraq, making it tougher for Pentagon officials to find the troops to replace units that are scheduled to rotate out of the country. Additional funding restrictions are also being considered by Murtha, such as prohibiting the creation of U.S. military bases inside Iraq, dismantling the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and closing the American detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It's worth reading the whole article.

We'll get to see this strategy in action here in New York, as Republican Reps Randy Kuhl and Vito Fossella decide how they're going to vote. New York Republicans Tom Reynolds, Peter King and John McHugh have decided to vote for expanding American involvement in Iraq, while James Walsh is going to abandon his Republican colleagues and vote to oppose the Bush expansion plan. From Newsday:
Two of New York's Republican lawmakers stayed on the fence Tuesday as Congress began debating a resolution opposing a troop increase in Iraq - a measure that could have more sway over their political futures than on U.S. fighting forces.
We'll let New York Rep Charlie Rangel have the last word:
"Today, you have to decide whether or not you want this war to continue, and how many people have to die . . . [the resolution opposing escalation] is not going to hurt our beloved warriors, it's going to help our country, it's going to help them."
Right on.

What do you think? Ending the war is the important thing - is this plan the way to do it?

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Peter H. said...

A "slow end to the war"? That's how the headline at sums it up, and I'm not impressed. In fact, I'm upset.

A friend of mine is in the Natnl. Guard, and has already done one tour in Iraq. The "slow end" strategy could easily mean he gets sent back for another-- not to mention the thousands of additional Iraqis who will lose their lives as the result of the Congressional Democratic leadership's over-cautious approach.

What the "slow enders" don't see is that our side will do best with a robust response. Bringing the troops home more quickly will keep more of them alive-- and isn't that a truer form of support than to leave them hanging out there, taking fire when you don't think their "mission" makes any sense.

The WFP should pressure New York's Congressional representatives to join the WFP in supporting Jim McGovern's legislation: all troops out in six month's time.

Steve Perez said...

Chris Bowers at MyDD weighs in on the House Dems strategy. What do you think about what Chris says?

Peter H. said...

Good question-- here’s a long answer. My 2 cents is that Bowers makes a smart, well-reasoned argument that still gets it wrong.

Bowers is right that "figuring out a way to end the war, when you are still not even close to the votes for a timetable, is not the easiest thing to do." And I don't object to the "readiness strategy" as a tactical move to line up a majority of votes. Today's victory on the nonbinding resolution was great news-- it gets the ball rolling in the right direction. With luck, the "readiness strategy" might blunt or block Bush's troop escalation. (In fact, I was pushing the “readiness” argument to a Schumer staffer when lobbying Congress with 1,000 other people on Jan. 29. For what it’s worth, it was new to her and she liked it.)

But if our side focuses only on how to craft a proposal that might get a majority next week, we end up accommodating to the current shape of the Iraq debate inside the Beltway-- instead of changing it. The only way we'll win an end to this war is if we can reframe that debate. We’ve had some successes on that front in the last year or so (for instance, a turning point in public opinion came when a majority started to agree that the war in Iraq was increasing, not decreasing, the dangers of terrorism). But we need more.

The Republican charge that a funding cutoff means "not supporting the troops" is mind-bendingly absurd. Jim Webb has been very good on this-- it's kind of crazy to say that we have to keep fighting this bloody war to protect the troops that we sent to fight it. What we need is political leaders with the courage to say that the emperor has no clothes-- to say, isn't it obvious that the best way to protect our troops is to get them on a plane back to Buffalo, back to the Bronx, ASAP? And that this is the only thing Congress should provide money for?

Our side needs to walk on two legs. We've got to say bluntly that this war serves no good purpose, creates more misery the longer it goes on, and needs to end now. Any politician who votes to spend more money on this senseless slaughter-- Democrat or Republican-- should be made to feel the heat, and we need leaders who will urge voters in their district to do just that.

We also need smart efforts to pass resolutions of disapproval and practical restrictions on Bush's ability to wage war. The stronger the better, and I understand that we're some distance from having the votes for a funding cutoff.

But in the end, the only way to stop this war is for Congress to deny Bush the money to wage it. And we’re never going to get that result unless we argue for it.

Bowers makes some nods towards walking on both of these legs. But he calls for “backing the Murtha / Pelosi plan with everything we have got,” and says nothing about organizing grassroots pressure on members of Congress who so far won’t vote for a funding cutoff.

This picks the wrong target. Why is support growing in Congress for compromise measures like the “readiness strategy”? Proposals like this one get their energy from the growth in public support for getting out of Iraq. A Congress that’s not ready to do that is trying to accommodate itself to an increasingly angry public. That’s where we need to focus our work outside of DC, and it’s actually the most effective way to help pass partial measures in the meantime.

This is particularly true in New York-- which brings us to the responsibilities of the WFP. In New York, I’d be surprised if there’s a single Democrat who won’t support a “readiness strategy.” A scared Republican or two might even join them. In New York, a vote for a “readiness strategy” is an easy vote.

We need to push NY Representatives to make a harder vote-- to cut off the money that sustains this war. And when I say “we,” I mean the WFP. The WFP should pick one or two Democrats who so far won’t support the McGovern bill, and put an army of door-knocking organizers in their district. Public opinion is heavily on our side-- I’d bet that such an effort would generate converts in DC at a pretty rapid rate. But only if we don’t soften our message. Waverers need to be confronted by constituents who tell them, “If you give Bush more money for this war, then it’s your war, too. Don’t do it-- vote to stop the war.”

Steve Perez said...

I think this is right. The readiness strategy and revisiting the war authorization are good in as much as they win votes to our side and stop the escalation, but our goal needs to be bringing the troops home.

How can we make sure these different strategies add together to bring us toward that goal?