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Tilting at Windmills

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January 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OPPOSING THE SURGE....It appears that at least some Democrats are getting serious about opposing the surge with more than just a nonbinding resolution:

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) announced legislation today capping the number of troops in Iraq at roughly 130,000, saying that lawmakers should take an up-or-down vote on President Bush's plan to send additional troops to the country and not settle for the non-binding resolution several Senate leaders prefer.

....Dodd released his legislation on a day when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), in a series of interviews on morning television, endorsed troop limits and a possible cutoff of funds to the Iraqi government if it fails to meet security benchmarks.

....Clinton, in her television interviews, said she wanted to cap the number of troops and also cut funding to the Iraqi government -- "for the training of their military, for the protection of the leaders, for economic reconstruction assistance" -- unless it makes progress on rebuilding its security forces and policing the country.

"I am opposed to this escalation," Clinton said on CBS News's "The Early Show."

I'm opposed to the escalation too, but these moves by Dodd and Clinton actually strike me as the worst of all possible worlds. Legislation to get us out of Iraq would be a fine idea. Legislation to reinstitute the draft and send 200,000 more troops to Iraq would be a horrible idea, but would at least have some internal consistency. But legislation that essentially locks in place the status quo? That really makes no sense at all. If there's anything we can be absolutely sure of, it's the fact that the status quo isn't working.

Democrats should either go the political route and pass a nonbinding resolution, or they should pull up their socks and support legislation that defunds the war and sets a timetable for withdrawal. There's really no way to triangulate out of this.

Kevin Drum 12:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

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You expected anything different from Democratic Leadership Council-supported creatures like Clinton and Dodd?

If the only political good that comes out of this mess is that the DLC and its monstrous offspring are permanently discredited, that will be enough.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 17, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

I don't agree. This is a good first step. They want to see what Bush does next.

Posted by: DR on January 17, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I am 100 percent in agreement with you, Kevin. Pull the plug. Once your opponent KNOWS you have only a pair of deuces, folding is the least worst option no matter how big the pot is.

Posted by: JMG on January 17, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Kevin -- let them discredit the whole surge idea, or take substantive measures. Clinton's idea won't earn any credit, but will certainly earn blame.

Posted by: Pennypacker on January 17, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm opposed to the escalation too,

That's pretty hypocritical of you to oppose the Surge now. As one of the few honest liberals Michael O'Hanlon pointed out, liberals have supported increasing troops for some time now but now that President Bush is doing it, liberals have decided to oppose it for partisan reasons.

Link

"On the military surge itself, critics of the administration's Iraq policy have consistently argued that the United States never deployed enough soldiers and Marines to Iraq. Now Bush has essentially conceded his critics' points."

"But it would still be counterintuitive for the president's critics to prevent him from carrying out the very policy they have collectively recommended."

Posted by: Al on January 17, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "Democrats should either go the political route and pass a nonbinding resolution, or they should pull up their socks and support legislation that defunds the war and sets a timetable for withdrawal."

Democrats should pass legislation that cuts off all further funding for the war and requires the Bush administration to use the funding that is already in the pipeline to pay for bring all the troops home immediately.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 17, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah -- let's legislate the totally failed status quo.

Way to go, Dems!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 17, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK
I'm opposed to the escalation too, but these moves by Dodd and Clinton actually strike me as the worst of all possible worlds.

No, the worst of all possible worlds was experienced for most of the time from 2001 through 2005, when Congress (and pundits), Democrats and Republicans alike, was largely marching in lockstep behind the administration on the war against Iraq, with only small pockets of timid resistance, generally quickly abandoned.

Legislation to get us out of Iraq would be a fine idea. Legislation to reinstitute the draft and send 200,000 more troops to Iraq would be a horrible idea, but would at least have some internal consistency. But legislation that essentially locks in place the status quo? That really makes no sense at all.

Capping troops does not lock in place the status quo, it constrains the options available to the executive; further, doing what Clinton suggests, cutting off funding to the Iraqi government, certainly doesn't lock in place the status quo, as it is a substantial change from the status quo policy.

Further, even locking in place the status quo is a legislative step toward getting us out; when the left says the war cannot be won and the right says the war cannot be won without escalation, taking escalation of the table inevitably leads to the end of the war. No other positions is left as viable.

Democrats should either go the political route and pass a nonbinding resolution, or they should pull up their socks and support legislation that defunds the war and sets a timetable for withdrawal. There's really no way to triangulate out of this.

A nonbinding resolution at this point is empty, the media recognizes it as empty, and it does nothing to drive national discourse. Getting binding proposals on the table that would constrain the executive does do that, and its why it needs to be done.

Yes, its only a step toward ending the war, and maybe not the ideal step (though you certainly haven't, here, made much of a case against it). But its certainly neither "locking in the status quo" or "the worst of all possible worlds".

Posted by: cmdicely on January 17, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

OK, let's put an end to Al's latest distortion right away. More troops early on might have prevented things from getting to where they are now. But that was EARLY. Now it's LATE.

Or to put it in more cliched terms, once the horse has left the barn, closing the barn door won't bring it back.

http://whatswrongwithmallardfillmore.blogspot.com

Posted by: don Hosek on January 17, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you auditioning for a spot at Pajamas Media?

You claim that the Dems should either do something entirely symbolic and with no effect (resolution) or specify the details of a withdrawal, where such a withdrawal has no chance of passing the Senate (at least).

Yet, somehow, preventing the President from digging us in even deeper and reducing the amount of American (future) taxpayer money flowing to this useless Iraqi government are bad ideas.

Why not consider the possibility that preventing the escalation can be a first step in demonstrating to the remaining war supporters that withdrawing troops from Iraq will not result in the "terrorists winning?"

Coupled with your recent post criticizing the war's opponents for only being 99.9% right, it's really difficult to shake the feeling that you've reverted to gunning for MSM credibility - this time by repeating Republican and MSM demands that the Democrats wave their magic wand and immediately undo 6 years of Republican disaster upon disaster.

I came to expect better of you, and am reminded that was a bad idea.

Posted by: Arr-squared on January 17, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not as upset by it. It's classic pol, of course: get headlines without actually saying or deciding anything, leave options open, don't go so far in any direction as to totally alienate anyone, etc.

But that flexibility is actually helpful, as observed upthread: they can go further if they decide to, without being accused of inconsistency. In that respect, I think "locks in" is a bit strong.

Also, I still think the Dems win on this one by playing passive-aggressive. They may look a little spineless (not that this is news), but by not challenging the Republicans too directly on the war, they keep responsibility for the conduct of the war -- ALL aspects of the war, escalation, stasis, or withdrawal -- squarely where it belongs: on the Republicans.

Others doubtless will disagree. But I think, from a purely political perspective, less is more in this case.

Posted by: bleh on January 17, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton, said she wanted to cap the number of troops and also cut funding to the Iraqi government -- "for the training of their military, for the protection of the leaders, for economic reconstruction assistance" -- unless it makes progress on rebuilding its security forces and policing the country.

this is really idiotic. "do what we want! or we'll make sure that you're UNABLE to do what we want!!" are you kidding me? the only thing that's going to get us out of Iraq are well trained, competent security services in that country. unless we just leave regardless of what happens. which i sorta think is what we should do.

Posted by: e1 on January 17, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK
this is really idiotic. "do what we want! or we'll make sure that you're UNABLE to do what we want!!" are you kidding me?

"Do what we want with the money we're giving you, or we stop giving you them money."

That's, actually, a pretty common method of demanding accountability when you are giving out money for a reason, not just because you have too much of it.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 17, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

If they are going to cap the number of troops, they need to also cap the numbers of tours of duty a soldier (especially in the Guard) can be forced to serve. Without that, Bush will just keep recylcling them through the meat grinder

Posted by: Martin on January 17, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of engaging in debate about the merits of any plan to 'win' in Iraq, reframe the debate to one of holding those who started the war criminally responsible. When the war pigs realize they are going to have to pay for their crimes, they will start to incriminate each other like the two bit criminals they are.

Posted by: Brojo on January 17, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Missing the obvious here, Kevin -- Bush would either veto it, or sign it and issue a signing statement saying he could do what he wanted anyways.

This way, they're on record as trying to stop it- - with laws, not "Resolutions" -- and can continue to blame Bush. If they're really lucky, he'll go the signing statement route and they'll have grounds for impeachement later when the real attempt to stop it fails -- which will be tied to funding, as Bush can't veto that.

Posted by: Morat20 on January 17, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Hear it Now: Bush's approval numbers are going to go up steadily from now until the end of this year.

The Democrats' opposition to the escalation is going to look bad in the months to come because the escalation will appear to have some effect. The Shiite militias will back down and the situation will appear calmer by next summer and fall.

The modest escalation won't be any permanent fix, but it will appear to help in the short to medium term.

Face it, Americans hate to retreat, and the Democrats' position cannot inspire. Bush, like General Anthony McAuliffe at Bastogne, is saying "Nuts!" to calls for retreat. And that is going to resonate better with Americans than pulling back.

Bush's bungling has done an enormous amount to undermine our troops' mission in Iraq. But he's wrong-footed the Democrats on the surge issue, and he's going to come roaring back politically in the months to come.

Posted by: McCord on January 17, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, right after Sen. Richard Durban, spineless, stupid, worthless Dem that he is -- sez, "there isn't much we can do about executive authority" right after Bush's loser speech that failed to explain WHY Bush wanted a surge? The decider just decided".

Sen. Durban is such a coward and he has a serious lack of foresight, because he can't even see the writing on the *ucking wall, I MEAN please, Bush's surge speech was a real lulu too, just like his 60 minutes eye sore of a camera deadpaned, a bird's eye view on the brainless child of Poppy Bush, close up and personal, the true colors of a idiot, (after an hour long sit-in with ole Pumpkin Head, you'd have to wonder that even if Bush IS really too stupid to know better, at least Karl Rove would have learned NOT to let the Preznutial face do ANY hour long talks with the media - but of course, stupid is as stupid does, right? Karl is all out of his one card tricks.

Bush is the "decider" that feels that he doesn't need to explain nothing, not even to those centrist Repugs fearing horribly for their congressional seats - WHY, WHAT, WHEN, HOW, not a single particular AND THEN how it would only last 18 months, RIGHT, just in time for the 2008 re-elections, so Repugs are thinking, WHY, ME WORRY, Bush is such a pig, (I mean, is Bush stupid or something.) SO the Repugs balked, and even Sen. Mitch McConnell is turn down flat. Lotty boy sez "nothing to add here" AND of course Lott is still steamed by Bush's complete lack of loyality since Lott never gave Bush anything but loyality ONLY to have gotten the knife it in the back side. It as if Lott sez "*uck you to Bush/Cheney and why the hell not, they sure *uck over poor old Lott.

You reap what you sow, so someone, maybe Poppy Bush should sit little Bushie down and explain the facts of life, "son, if you get nasty to somebody, they will most likely get nasty right back at you, dude and that ain't nothing personally son, it's just life."

But little Bushie either drank his good advice or snorted it into non-existence, living in the real world is such a bitch.


Posted by: Cheryl on January 17, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I don't give two shits about "triangulating" this abominable occupation. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was based on a pack of lies - Bush and Cheney both knew Saddam did not have the things they sent Colin Powell in front of the U.N to say he had. As a result, this entire military incursion is illegal and illegitimate and the Democrats ought to be screaming this at the top of their lungs.

The hell with civility, Bush is a filthy liar and that should be message number one out of the DNC. Along with a steady call for his impeachment and imprisonment.

These pansyass Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Dodd are going to get the Democrats exactly nowhere. IMPEACHMENT IS THE ONLY ANSWER AND IS WHAT THE CONSTITUTION PRESCRIBES AS A REMEDY FOR THIS EGREGIOUS ABUSE OF POWER.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 17, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think you misunderstand what Dodd is doing. By rejecting the escalation, he is trying to keep Bush from widening the war, without undermining whatever efforts Bush will make to get out of it.

You can disagree that capping the force at 130,000 can DO that, but it's not a crazy strategy.

It recognizes that Bush's strategy fails, and his tactics are likely to make things worse, but he IS the President: and that counts for something until he leaves office, inshallah.

Bush's 'plan' is to try yet another one last time to get the Shi'ite dominated government to control the Shi'ites that put it on power (which is sort of a contradiction in terms right there), in order to reach a political deal with the Sunnis who hate us (and them). The logic of this forcing Shi'ites to get along with Sunnis strategy is that our principal regional adversary is Shi'ite Persia, while our principal regional ally is Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Literally nobody really thinks that can work now, if it ever could.

So Bush can either expand the war -- the Cambodian Incursion scenario -- or he can escalate and fail at a higher level of commitment. As everybody keeps pointing out without seeming to GET it, Bush can't quit cuz that's admitting defeat. Giving him more troops makes everything worse. If he attacks Iran (or Syria), things get much worse. But he's still the Commander in Chief, and it's still a dangerous world.

So Dodd's approach is actually a sensible way out: you can do what you want for 20 months or so, Mr. President, but you aren't going to have any more troops to do it.

Bush isn't going to be impeached. Congress isn't going to pull the plug on the war.

Try to stay within shouting distance of reality, willya?

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 17, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

This represents another "Profiles in Courage" moment for the Congressional Democrats. Even if they could pass a bill that defunds the war or calls for troop withdraws, they all know that Bush would veto it and there is no way that enough Republicans would vote to override that veto. So the net effect of all this "opposition to the surge" is simply for potential 08 presidential candidates to grandstand for the benefit of you guys. So lap it up and enjoy.

Posted by: Chicounsel on January 17, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Dodd's presidential campaign manager weighs in.

You guys at the DLC are so sharp you're slicing the Democratic Party's belly open.

Try to stay within shouting distance of some actual testicles, willya?

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 17, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

We blame BUSH for not reading history and learning from it? Dodd and Clinton are doing the same thing! Democrats in Congress wimped out on their principles in 2002 and got SWEPT out of office. Democrats need to stand up for the principle that this war wrong wrong and immoral from the get-go. Get our people out of there now! There is absolutely NOTHING to suggest that anything worse will happen if we leave than if we stay, and we have no chance of WINNING in any real sense. So let's save American lives and move on.

Posted by: Big House on January 17, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin.

I think going the political route would be immoral because we know it would lead to more needless deaths. But I have to admit that in the perverse world of politics, if the Democrats stand back and let Bush do what he wants, the inevitable disastrous results will position the Democratic pary more favorably in 2008. "Yes, he got everything he asked for, every time, and look what happened."

If we freeze the status quo, then we have the worst of all possible worlds--continued deaths along with the blame for the lack of "victory."

If we force the withdrawal of troops, we save American lives, the American Army, and probably improve the situation in Iraq for the Iraqis.

Posted by: cowalker on January 17, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think I'd cut off funding for the war--Dems ONLY recourse. What if Bush just keeps them there and leaves them without food and clothes, which he'll probably do? This is not a typical administration. Congress can not get the troops out, that's left to the President. People are assuming that Bush will see the lack of money and bring the troops home, but they are absurd to think he'll do just that. This is a different type of president.

Posted by: gq on January 17, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hear it Now: Bush's approval numbers are going to go up steadily from now until the end of this year.

Only if he stays the hell off TV for the next 11 months, and that includes the State of the Union.

That has to be the most deluded prognostication I've seen on these threads, and rdw and "ex-liberal" post here! Sheesh!

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

This represents another "Profiles in Courage" moment for the Congressional Democrats.

Speaking of courage, Chicounsel, we need more troops. When are you signing up?

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Even if they could pass a bill that defunds the war or calls for troop withdraws, they all know that Bush would veto it and there is no way that enough Republicans would vote to override that veto.

By the way, fool, the President can't use the veto power to force Congress to appropriate money. If the Congress wants to defund the war, that's its Constitutional prerogative.

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Congress need to reauthorize the occupation. The prior authorization for aggressive military action is no longer relevant and should be voided.

President Bush should be made to justify his new plan whole cloth, and also should be expected to form alternate plans for withdrawing American troops in case that's the direction Congress decides to go.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, this just in from Reuters:

By JoAnne Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Pentagon official who criticized American law firms for defending detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay apologized in a letter to the editor published in The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, said last week in a Washington radio interview he found it "shocking" that major U.S. law firms would agree to represent Guantanamo detainees pro bono.

He suggested they would suffer financially when corporate clients learned of their involvement in Guantanamo cases.

"Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not," Stimson wrote in response to the furor over his remarks.

"I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs," he wrote.

IF there is lesson in this, it's never get nasty to big time lawyers. Somebody gave Charles Stimson a talking too that humiliate the hell out that government lawyer. I wish I knew whom to thank and would have loved to have tune it to that humilation. OH, the words we'll never hear.


Posted by: Cheryl on January 17, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

In the end, if Congress does decide to reauthorize as Bush is currently intending to go forward, they will at least have imposed their power, conditions and oversight more carefully and we'll be a better nation for it.

We're quite clearly under a whole new set of conditions now, with Saddam toppled and there being a newly elected government in Iraq, so the prior authorization is just an excuse to set bad precedents in giving too much leeway to the executive branch and wasting huge sums of money without attached conditions or oversight.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I should probably mention that I wouldn't expect Congress to reauthorize the occupation to President Bush's liking, and I'm personally opposed to any escalation in Iraq, as well as any proxy activities there targeting Iran or undermining the elected Iraqi government.

If there is to be change in Iraq's government, we should call for new elections.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that if the Dems prevent a change in strategy, that would be the worst of all worlds. I also don't like their non-binding anti-war resolution, because it encourages our enemies to persevere.

I think the Dems should either try to end American involvment in Iraq, by a binding vote; or they should go along with Bush and avoid symbolic actions that cannot help the country or our allies.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 17, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"But I have to admit that in the perverse world of politics, if the Democrats stand back and let Bush do what he wants, the inevitable disastrous results will position the Democratic Party more favorably in 2008. "Yes, he got everything he asked for, every time, and look what happened."

Posted by: cowalker on January 17, 2007 at 2:38 PM

Echoing cowalker's point, if the Dems had simply adhered to the adage that "politics stops at the water's edge" then they would have been completely blameless for whatever happens in Iraq. If things remain as bad as they are currently, then they would have been the beneficiaries because the rejection of Bush's policy, and with it the GOP, by the American people would mean the election of a Democratic President in 08. Just like in 1968, with the election of Nixon being as a rejection of LBJ's conduct of the Vietman War. If things get better, they could have said that they supported Bush all along and taken the issue completely off the table.

But since the Kos crowd, and many here, would view that as surrendering to the BFEE (Bush Family Evil Empire), they have made it impossible for Dems politicians to play it safe. Since high profile opposition to Bush policies in Iraq would result in a defeat of the US, in military and foreign policy terms, the Dems by their opposition now share the same goal as the terrorists, to defeat Bush and the US.

Good luck selling that to the American people in 08.

Posted by: Chicounsel on January 17, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

from Kevin: Democrats should either go the political route and pass a nonbinding resolution, or they should pull up their socks and support legislation that defunds the war and sets a timetable for withdrawal. There's really no way to triangulate out of this.


from the paraphrase of Clinton's comment: unless it makes progress on rebuilding its security forces and policing the country.

Every time the Democrats speak (except Kucinich, Kennedy, and a few others) they come up short of deciding. As long as they allow "wiggle room", the President will use his discretion and authority to do what he thinks best. To achieve effectiveness, take control, act responsibly, etc, they need to quit kvetching and pass binding legislation to effect whatever they want done.

Even the Iraq Study Group advised bringing American troops home beginning in 2008, and only if the security situation permits. Those are not direct quotes; direct quotes have been presented before.

Even if they could pass a bill that defunds the war or calls for troop withdraws, they all know that Bush would veto it and there is no way that enough Republicans would vote to override that veto.

As Gregory noted, the Pres. can not spend money that the Congress has not authorized, so unless he already has the funding he needs, that won't work. Even more, with support for the war as low as it is, and support for the Pres. as low as it is, there is no guarantee that enough Republicans could not be persuaded to join the veto override (sorry for the double negative.) For credibilty and effectiveness, the Democrats need to press whatever it is that they want.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 17, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "On the military surge itself, critics of the administration's Iraq policy have consistently argued that the United States never deployed enough soldiers and Marines to Iraq. Now Bush has essentially conceded his critics' points."
...
"But it would still be counterintuitive for the president's critics to prevent him from carrying out the very policy they have collectively recommended."

Al, everybody knows that I support the president and the "surge". But that quote is just not any good. Bush's critics have said that many more troops were necessary, on the order of 500,000 total. Rarely have any recommended a troop level increase of 20,000 or so.

I am a member of a dwindling minority (what, about 25% of Americans still support the war effort?), and even I can see that if Bush is not successful by mid-2007 his goose is cooked politically.

Curiously, on the "success" side, Iraq the Model and other sources have reported that arouond 2500 al Qaeda have evacuated Baghdad and relocated to Dineyeh (sp?) province, between Baghdad and Iran. Curious place to relocate, since it may be a route of infiltration of Iranian support for the Shi'as.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 17, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus: Legislation to reinstitute the draft and send 200,000 more troops to Iraq would be a horrible idea, but would at least have some internal consistency.

As if that is what Hillary needs to do?

I mean really, "reinstitute the draft". And here we thought Bush was stupid.

Reinstitute the draft, yeah, why doesn't Hillary do that? Its a bit like Bill Clinton saying those 16 words were just a "mistake".

It sounds like Sen. Carl Levin got under Hillary's skin. Maybe Iraq had better find a way, because Americans simply will not baby-sit much longer. It's just the cold hard facts and its nice the Hillary isn't in a baby-sitting mood these days. IT's a bit of the old style conservative attitude but what would so-called "centrist" Dems know about that approach?

Posted by: Chreyl on January 17, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that if the Dems prevent a change in strategy, that would be the worst of all worlds.

Now, that's strange...up until Bush's speech, "ex-liberal" was insisting that we were actually winning in Iraq, despite what the Traitorous Liberal Media was reporting. Oh, dear, could all of "ex-liberal"'s cheerleading have just been bullshit?!

Here's a clue, "ex-liberal": 1984 is not an operations manual.

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I am a member of a dwindling minority (what, about 25% of Americans still support the war effort?), and even I can see that if Bush is not successful by mid-2007 his goose is cooked politically.

What a horrible fate compared to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who've only been killed or maimed or tortured and lived without sufficient food or water or medical care in a war zone because Bush invaded their country under false pretenses.

Maybe you should send him a fucking sympathy note and make sure he's O.K.

Jackass.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 17, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Matthew Marler wrote: I am a member of a dwindling minority (what, about 25% of Americans still support the war effort?), and even I can see that if Bush is not successful by mid-2007 his goose is cooked politically.

Where to begin...Marler gives the war -- surprise, surprise! -- one more Friedman Unit!

But really, if Marler doesn't recognize that Bush's goose -- or rather, lame duck -- isn't cooked politically right now, well then, his delusional support of the war isn't so hard to understand.

Delusional, but still not entirely irrational -- after all, since he isn't in uniform and backs the President's tax cuts, Marler's "support" doesn't cost him a thing.

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Echoing cowalker's point, if the Dems had simply adhered to the adage that "politics stops at the water's edge" then they would have been completely blameless for whatever happens in Iraq. If things remain as bad as they are currently, then they would have been the beneficiaries because the rejection of Bush's policy, and with it the GOP, by the American people would mean the election of a Democratic President in 08.

When the nation doesn't want to lose any more of our soldiers to this dumb occupation (or at least as few as possible while we figure out how to deescalate), what would it say if neither political party listened to them, or did anything on their behalf, while the president escalated the occupation?

What would say about the Democrats if they decided to do nothing because it would help their chances to get the White House in 2008 (even if that assumption were true and I don't think it's that simple)?

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Chicousnel wrote: Since high profile opposition to Bush policies in Iraq would result in a defeat of the US, in military and foreign policy terms, the Dems by their opposition now share the same goal as the terrorists, to defeat Bush and the US.

Good luck selling that to the American people in 08.

First of all, fuck you and your "share the same goal as the terrorists" bullshit. It's Bush's agenda that has depended on scaring the American people shitless, which is in fact the same goal as the terrorists.

Second of all, strangely enough, Bush policies in Iraq seem to have done a pretty good job of resulting in a defeat of the US all on their own.

And the American people have figured that out already, as the 2006 elections proved. Even Marler concedes that he -- and you -- share a minority position.

Yes, dead-head dead-enders like you, Marler and "ex-liberal" are going to be screaming "a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolschtosslegende">Dolchstoss!!! as the chickens of Bush's incompetence come home to roost -- but good luck selling that to the American people, jackass.

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

argh...screwed up the link tag...

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

It is as I feared.

They've got no spine. Even after the 2006 rout. And Feinstein (D-RIAA), with her pushing this PERFORM Act bill, shows her true colors as a corporate stooge.

Only ONE thing will solve this problem.
Outlaw all private financing (ie. legalized bribery) of election campaigns. Period.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 17, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq the Model and other sources have reported that arouond 2500 al Qaeda have evacuated Baghdad and relocated to Dineyeh (sp?) province

That's interesting given that CENTCOM estimates less than 2500 Al Qaeda in the entire country, the majority of which are thought to be in Anbar province.

However my sources at "Iraq Loves George Bush" have reported that the mere mention of Bush's surge plan has driven the orcs and Black Riders from the city in a panic.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 17, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Stopping funding for the troops is bad politics and should be avoided. Congress can and should stop funding everything else W. Bush hopes to accomplish (to ruin the country.) Stop funding the Bush government, especially nuclear research and all of the domestic spying. Stop funding the Justice Dept. There was news Justice fired a lot of lawyers recently. Congress can 'fire' Gonzales by taking away his budget. He is not doing anything but domestic spying anyway. Stop funding the Energy Dept, which is used as an oil lobbyist. This will protect our wetlands, off-shore areas and wildlife preserves. Stop funding anything that Bush says is important to him by playing real political hardball.

Posted by: Brojo on January 17, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Stop funding Guantanamo.

Posted by: Brojo on January 17, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

That's interesting given that CENTCOM estimates less than 2500 Al Qaeda in the entire country, the majority of which are thought to be in Anbar province.

It's also that what Marler cites approvingly is also one of the disadvantages we face in this conflict: The insurgents can fight at times and places of their choosing, and melt among the populace at others. Thus, they have an advantage in terms of initiative.

Along those lines, for the "surge" -- that is, an increase in troops in Baghdad -- to have had any real effect, it should have been done, to the extent possible, on the Q.T., so as to provide as much tactical surprise as possible and prevent the insurgents from relocating.

By notifiying the insurgents where the US forces will deploy in advance (which may, along with the cyclical reduction in hostilities after the Muslim holy months, result in a short-term downtick in violence), Bush compounds our disadvantage in initiative, once again sacrificing national security for domestic political concerns.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi insurgents know that whatever Bush says, eventually we will leave and they will still be there. Unless, of course, Bush's claims of no permanent bases are all bullshit...

Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, I like the thought, but conservatives would love the idea of defunding the government, especially when done by Democrats, and especially more so because they could even attack the Democrats for doing what amounts to extortion. If it's about the war, make it about the war, rather than set bad precedents for behavior.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, Guantanamo should be shut down as quickly as possible irrespective of other concerns.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, IMHO, is slightly misrepresenting Dodd's position. He isn't just against the surge. He is asserting that the risk for which Congress authorized Bush to use military force (a Saddam-led Iraq) is gone and there never has been an authorization for intervention in a civil war. He is using the surge issue to raise the question whether there is any authority granted to the President to remain in Iraq.

Posted by: ursus on January 17, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory wrote: "Unless, of course, Bush's claims of no permanent bases are all bullshit."

Of course they are bullshit. The permanent bases are already being built. The permanent bases will be absolutely essential for the US military to enforce the US-based multinational oil corporations' control of Iraq's oil reserves, which is the sole and entire purpose of Bush's illegal war of unprovoked aggression against Iraq.

And, by the way, commenters such as Matthew Marler who say they "support the president" are supporting exactly that: an illegal war of unprovoked aggression, based on lies, and the corrupt misuse of the US military for the purpose of seizing control of another country's valuable natural resources for private gain.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 17, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, IMHO, is slightly misrepresenting Dodd's position. He isn't just against the surge. He is asserting that the risk for which Congress authorized Bush to use military force (a Saddam-led Iraq) is gone and there never has been an authorization for intervention in a civil war. He is using the surge issue to raise the question whether there is any authority granted to the President to remain in Iraq.

This is the right approach.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

A cap is not the worst of all possible worlds unless it is seen as the last move, instead of the first move.

Congress should start with a cap, then it should hold detailed hearings and come up with the best plan possible to bring the war to a close. A withdrawal will have to be carefully done to protect our troops on the way out. We are also going to need to grant refugee status to people who worked directly and closely for Americans and are liable to be killed for it (particularly tightly connected people like embassy staff).

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 17, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Just thought I'd mention that with Hagel and possibly Snowe getting behind a nonbinding resolution along with Democrats, there is a pretty good chance that, whatever binding measures get developed, a nonbinding resolution will also be passed. And, while it is less significant, with hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations committee planned on it for the day after the SOTU, the nonbinding resolution looks like it will be worked for every bit of political impact it can have. Its wrong for Drum to portray nonbinding and binding actions as exclusive alternatives, just as it is wrong for him to portray steps like those proposed by Clinton and Dodd here, and ending the war as opposed or exclusive ideas.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 17, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Stop funding Guantanamo.
Posted by: Brojo

Dollars to donuts Gitmo is being funded out of the "black" part of the budget. So the best that could be done is decrease the total amount with no garuantee that it would affect Gitmo. Hell, the administration would probably find a way to pull the funds from the VA.

Posted by: cyntax on January 17, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Is this the best they can do?

Let's cap the number of troops in Iraq at zero, tell the world we made a horrible mistake, send them half of what it takes to occupy thier country and bring the troops home now.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Impeach the entire Bush administration and send them to Gitmo.

Posted by: earth2you2 on January 17, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bringing Articles of Impeachment to the floor of the House is the only way to stop Bush and Cheney dead in their war-mongering tracks. In less than two months, Iran is going to be a radioactive piece of Swiss cheese and all the wishy-washy Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Kevin Drum are going to be wringing their hands and worrying about what to do next.

Do you think the GOP worried about impeaching Bill Clinton over a blowjob and what the political fallout would be?? Do you think it hurt them politically?? Fuck no, to answer both questions.

Wake up, people. Armageddon is the next act for these two clowns, unless we put them both on trial soon!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 17, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I see the non-binding resolution as a warning shot across the bow of the administration, particularly since it has bi-partisan support (full text):

    "it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States presence in Iraq."

As unilateral and loose-cannon in execution as the Bush Administration is, the Congress has to apply a braking force in a measured and legal way. When the ultimate result could be a showdown between the executive and legislative branches, Congress can't lash out for maximum effect without trying more measured steps. First, the non-binding resolution, then a cap, then something more may be required.

Posted by: cyntax on January 17, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Lord, the moon must be waxing.

It's not an exact parallel, but with folks calling out for stupid approaches while insisting that smarter people 'grow a pair', it's probably worth recalling a similar incident a long time ago.

In the early 1980s, there was an alternative to what became known as the Boland Amendment, which said that no money could be spent to knock off the government of Nicaragua.

Dodd wrote the alternative. Since (along with the late Paul Tsongas), he had been the first to oppose the contras, I figure his effectiveness against that dumbass policy oughta be taken for granted.

But his alternative wasn't adopted, for more or less precisely the reasons you guys are objecting to what he's proposing now. What Dodd wanted instead, back in 1983, was a statement that as a matter of law, it was not the policy of the US government overthrow the government of Nicaragua. he did NOT want to try to tie strings on the mone as such, because he was convinced that the tighter Congress tied 'em, the easier they would be to evade.

He insisted that for the Congress to state POLICY as a matter of law (which is, after all, what the Congress does, under the Constitution; signing statements be damned), would thus give the Congress far more leverage. He specifically pointed out that if the Congress stated on an appopriations bill (which is what the Boland Amendment, amended) that it was not the policy of the US government to knock off the government of Nicaragua, then what the White House was actually doing was no longer protected by executive privilege.

But Tip O'Neill backed Eddie Boland.

And we got Oliver North.

So just maybe those of y'all who think Dodd doesn't know what he's doing should learn something about how this stuff actually works, first.

Which just might involve, ya know, growing some brains.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 17, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I remember the early 80's and Dodd is nobody's dupe. He knows what he's doing.

Paul, you and I have disagreed a lot - and that was just unkind drawing those parallels between my parenting and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, even if it was true - but it is only right to let you know when I agree, and a couple of times the last two days you and I have been singing the same refrain.

Whether I exist or not! :)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 17, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any way they could pass legislation that troops' tours in Iraq can't be extended beyond a reasonalbe amount, and that enlistments can't be extended either? If we brought home all the troops that have involuntarily been kept there long beyond their enlistments, or had been stretched to the breaking point by year long tours, that in itself might cause a scaleback of forces in Iraq.

Posted by: jussumbody on January 17, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me the smart money should be looking at FY2008 budgeting to cap the whole Iraq debacle. Adjusting the funding for 2008 forces everyone to start positioning themselves for the money realities come October 1. Of course, Congress would have to actually pass a budget on time.

Posted by: RickG on January 17, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory: Marler gives the war -- surprise, surprise! -- one more Friedman Unit!

What is a Friedman unit? this phrase has been used several times in the last few days.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 17, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Its wrong for Drum to portray nonbinding and binding actions as exclusive alternatives

True...they can pass a non-binding resolution with bipartisan support to set the stage. Then, once this occurs, the mainstream media and pollsters have it at their disposal to find out what people are thinking about the subject matter. If the people support it, as I suspect they will, you paint Bush in a corner and move on to more serious steps if he's not willing to come down or negotiate.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

Which just might involve, ya know, growing some brains.

I can see you haven't changed at all theAmericanist...you probably still don't realize very few will listen to such an arrogant prick, no matter how good the argument (and I agree with you this time about following Dodd's lead).

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

What is a Friedman unit? this phrase has been used several times in the last few days.

Wikipedia: One Friedman Unit equals six months.

The term is a neologism coined by blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) in reference to the discovery by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting of journalist Thomas Friedman's repeated use of "the next six months" as the time period in which, according to Friedman, "we're going to find out...whether a decent outcome is possible" in the Iraq War.
Posted by: Gregory on January 17, 2007 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

"What is a Friedman unit? this phrase has been used several times in the last few days."

In a nutshell, a Friedman Unit is six months. It is named after NY Times columnist and author Tom Friedman who repeatedly has specified six months as the length of time it will take for whatever the current event taking place (election, new leadership, military operation, etc.) to improve the situation in Iraq.

I at least give Hillary credit for coming up with something I hadn't heard yet. And maybe it is the dreaded triangulation, but at least she found something most people can agree on: American money should not be used to give the Iraqi government weapons that end up in the hands of the insurgents and/or militias. Holding the Iraqi government accountable is a first step, and as she knows, the purse strings are the only power congress has.

Of course it is possible she is just coming up with something, anything, to shut John Edwards up.

Posted by: Dawn on January 17, 2007 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

from the BBC, some of the text: "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq," the resolution said.
...
"The United States should transfer, under an appropriately expedited timeline, responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence in Iraq to the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces," it said.

Since the surge brings forces up to a level below the previous maximum, and Since the "surge" is for the purpose of "expediting" the transfer of "responsibility for the internal security and halting the sectarian violence", and Since money for the surge has been already appropriated, and Since the surge is already underway, this is essentially a demand that the president do what he is doing. The Democrats could be working up to a real debacle, similar to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing the president to take all appropriate measures to bring the troops home [from Iraq this time.] We saw how well that worked out.


Gregory, I thank you, and I predict that Bush has "one final Friedman unit" before he suffers the next "serious consequences". [ Ambiguity is no longer in his favor. ] Not because anyone has any patience, but because the Democrats can't unite on an alternative that they are willing to press on him. Johnson expanded the war dramatically right after the election in 1964, and declined to run for re-election about 3 1/4 years later. Call that a "Johnson unit". Bush has already been at this longer than a Johnson unit. Unless the surge works really well, he'll be the lamest duck ever.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 17, 2007 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

The next time Congress passes a war resolution they need to put limits on it like:

1. until there are 3,000 American dead

or

2. until there are 20,000 innocent civilians killed in collateral damage

or

3. 3 items of intelligence turn out to have been wrong

or

4. $100B has been spent

or

5. the administration makes 5 big mistakes

or

6. the invaded country erupts in civil war

or

7. 3 1/2 years pass without victory


whichever comes first. That way, authority to wage the war expires automatically unless it is extended. That would eliminate a lot of this wrenching ambiguity.

There are some problems: it might take a Congressional resolution to note when the disabling criteria have been achieved, or that something (too few troops?) was a mistake. Like other ambiguities in Congressional resolutions, that might be justiciable.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 18, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory, I thank you, and I predict that Bush has "one final Friedman unit" before he suffers the next "serious consequences". [ Ambiguity is no longer in his favor. ] ... Unless the surge works really well, he'll be the lamest duck ever.

With respect, calibantwo, I disagree with your prediction. Everyone but the deadest of dead-ender Bush Cultists has already written off the war and Bush's Residency. Bush is already a particularly lame lame duck whose political capital basically consists of 1) the possibility that he'll use his power as Commander in Chief to do something truly crazy (as was feared with pre-resignation Nixon, for Ford's sake!) and 2) the unsavory prospect of Cheney as President if Bush is impeached (which is why I support impeaching Cheney first).

What's happening now is the GOP is trying to distance itself from the foundering S.S. Bush. Note, for example, that for all the gloating of various trolls about the trouble the Democrats would have being blamed for Bush's failure in Iraq, it's Republicans who are now lining up to join Democrats in opposition.

I doubt they'll succeed -- the Rovian branding effort has been -- oh, sweet irony! -- all too successful, but I give the GOP a Friedman unit to accomplish that, and doing so only strengthens the Dems' hand.

Posted by: Gregory on January 18, 2007 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Good lord, after ALL this time, Jimm finally gets it: "you probably still don't realize very few will listen to such an arrogant prick, no matter how good the argument..."

Note that I was responding to the poster who insisted that Dodd grow some balls.

Jimm sez, as reluctantly as he can, that he AGREES with me... but, hey, that's not good enough. Gotta be personal about it, cuz after all, the ONLY politics that count is the personal attack.

And you guys WONDER why progressives lose to better organized, better motivated and just plain more effective bad guys?

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory: With respect, calibantwo, I disagree with your prediction. Everyone but the deadest of dead-ender Bush Cultists has already written off the war and Bush's Residency. Bush is already a particularly lame lame duck whose political capital basically consists of 1) the possibility that he'll use his power as Commander in Chief to do something truly crazy (as was feared with pre-resignation Nixon, for Ford's sake!) and 2) the unsavory prospect of Cheney as President if Bush is impeached (which is why I support impeaching Cheney first).

Bush still has the authority to order forces to Iraq, and even to order attacks on Iranian forces that seem to be interfering with American efforts -- that's basically your point #1 with some emphasis that it represents true power. He also still has the power to veto, so excessively partisan legislation can not pass. "Opposition" to Bush right now is rhetorical; when the opponents unite behind an alternative policy and force it on him via legislation with the threat of impeachment, then he'll be a dead duck. If the "surge" effects amelioration of the situation in Iraq, that won't happen.

There isn't time to impeach Cheney and then impeach Bush. They are not going to impeach anybody while the troops are engaged and the Congress is still paying for the combat.

"Friedman unit" is pretty clever. al Maliki said that he expected the situation to be cleared up in 3-6 months -- half to a whole Friedman unit.

In 1864 Lincoln was more or less looking at his administration in Friedman units looming to the election. Northern Virginia and Louisiana did not yield good results, but Sherman was able to deliver Atlanta in the nick of time. The low point in WWII was the fall of Bataan and Corregidor; after that, each Frieman unit brought visible progress.

Posted by: calibantwo on January 18, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Bush actually likes the Lincoln analogy; it's a theme among conservatives (was, anyway) that the troops support Bush, like the Union Army voting overwhelmingly for Lincoln, even though the alternative was their very own George McLellan.

There ain't nothing on the horizon that looks remotely like Sherman in Georgia, though.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 18, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

As I noted above, the surge will "work" because the Shiite militias will be temporarily suppressed. The appearance of success will be evident in one Friedman unit. But don't stay long on the strategy for more than two Friedman units.


Reuters
Mahdi Army expressing siege mentality
AP - January 18, 2007
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments.

Posted by: McCord on January 18, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

And, in fact, it's increasingly clear what Bush will do when the surge's effect declines (if it has any effect at all): like Nixon in 1971, he will pull the troops into defensive positions ... and leave 'em there.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 19, 2007 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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