The House resolution that will require combat troops to be out of Iraq by the end of August, 2008 passed at approximately 12:45 on Friday. A similar Senate bill that calls for troops to come home a year from now has passed a committee vote.
We're approaching a point where the Democratic Congress may well wrest control of the Iraq war away from Mr. Bush. If that happens, will the Democrats rue the "victory?"
Iraq and a Hard Place and Hard Decisions
America sent a clear signal about its attitude toward the war when it put Democrats back in charge of the legislative branch in November--"stay the course" doesn't cut it anymore. Most Americans understand that terms "victory" and "defeat" no longer apply to Iraq. We're not at war with that country. We're deployed in a country that's at war with itself. It's a war that has more sides than the Pentagon. Which side do we choose?
We can't conduct a peacekeeping operation there. Peacekeeping requires willingness on the part of the belligerents to have peace. That condition does not exist in Iraq, and is not likely to as long as we remain in the middle of the fighting.
The Bush administration has illustrated through its actions that it's perfectly willing to let our involvement in the Iraq war go on until brown cows give chocolate milk. The neoconservative vision was to dominate the oil rich Middle East region through an enhanced U.S. military footprint, and the neocons still call the tune where Bush's foreign policy is concerned. (The chief architect of the so-called "surge" plan was Fred Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a key member of Bill Kristol's Project for the New American Century.)
The new Congress, under mandate of the electorate, could not continue to allow Bush and his neo-confederates to have their way on Iraq. They couldn't get the votes to cut off funding for the war that would require an immediate withdrawal, and an immediate withdrawal isn't a good idea anyway.
An orderly withdrawal, however--one that's organized around strictly enforced benchmarks and milestones--is a good idea, the only one that makes any sense. A fine old military adage says that level of effort expands to fill the time allowed to achieve the assigned task. My not inconsiderable experience tells me that's as true as truisms get.
Hiding Behind Skirts
In his brief speech on Friday afternoon, Mr. Bush accused the House Democrats of pulling an act of "political theater." It was interesting how the White House spinsters staged the event. The young hottie soldier girl behind his right soldier smirked twice at presumably pre-rehearsed moments. On Bush's left stood some old guy from one of the national veterans' groups who looked like an old Soviet commissar. Talk about political theater.
The die is cast. As the deadline bills move through Congress, the administration will do its best to "prove" the escalation strategy is "working." A real deadline bill will have to make it past a Republican filibuster in the Senate. If it jumps that hoop, it will have to roll through a presidential veto, and that's going to take a lot of Republicans in Congress to break ranks with the White House. How many GOP legislators will bend to anti-war sentiment in their constituencies and throw Bush on the Metro tracks remains to be seen.
As to the criticism that the House bill passed because it threw pork to U.S. spinach and peanut farmers: I'd rather see farmers profit from this war than to see Halliburton and its subsidiaries make another dime from it.
But the real trick behind all this maneuvering is whether or not the step-lock Republicans will decide to knuckle under to pressure from the Democrats when they decide once and for all that the war in Iraq is "lost" and they can blame the Democrats for it.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.