Friday, November 18, 2005

Murtha's efforts and same old same old

The House Republicans smell weakness. And a lack of a plan. From CNN:

Most Republicans oppose Murtha's plan, and even some Democrats have been reluctant to back his position. Republicans were seeking to force Democrats to stand with the respected 30-year congressman or go on the record against his proposal.

This is an adroit maneuver by the GOP. If few line up on John Murtha's side, his influence in the newscycle is weakened. His resolution was most powerful not as potential policy but as a political statement against the Bush administration.

However, Democratic leadership remains timid and unimaginative. They are unwilling, still, to seem "weak" on defense -- so they will seem "weak" in the House chamber.

Democrats missed an opportunity to bolster Murtha's gutsy position by supporting his idea as more sensible than the president's. Now, they risk a weak showing for Murtha's resolution and the dismissal of his emotional plea.

Murtha will live on in the blogosphere and in the history books as an example of a man who made a tough decision on principle. He deserves our thanks and admiration for that -- even if you disagree with his proposal.

But, if you were a betting man and saw this news today, you would not like the odds of the Democrats recapturing anything in 2006. Two bold strikes, well played in the initial news cycle, have since fallen to naught -- I am already writing the obit. for Murtha's resolution. Harry Reid took a play from Tom Daschle's book and closed the Senate's doors. Right away, it seemed like the Democrats were hitting the Republicans in a vulnerable spot. Frist looked shaky and upset in his initial reaction. But, instead of making the issue about Iraq NOW, Reid and the Democrats took the bait and tussled over how many documents they read before the war. Only a handful of Senators went beyond the executive summary of the NIE before the war -- a sin of grave consequence.

Arguing in the gray area does not speak to the body politic. A veteran who frequents the troubling corridors of Walter Reed does speak the people's language. Nancy Pelosi and the leadership of the Democrats, with the exception of John Kerry today, ought to be ashamed of themselves. If this issue does come to a vote, I hope some secure Blue State Dems will have the guts to side with Murtha. They can easily justify the vote as "better" than standing with the president -- as the president has us committed to a strategy of sheer butchery for an unknown period of time.

Bush would say, in red meat portions heaping with unintended irony, that his plan is to stay the course until the job is done. What, Mr. President, is the job? Please articulate it beyond "fighting them there, so they do not come over here". That may work for the next year or two, but those insurgents and foreign fighters will find their way into the Kingdom you and your father know so well. They have inched into Jordan; inspired horrors in London and Madrid.

Finishing the job cannot entail the installation of a Western democracy in Iraq. That is a goal beyond out ability and beyond the wish of the Iraqi people. They want security. They want peace. They want jobs, electricity and clean water. (Mr. President, there are a number of poor Americans from New Orleans that would like the same thing. We have a DVD for you to watch so you can empathize.)

Can good still be achieved in Iraq? Yes, I believe it can. It will require a new plan designed by someone other than Rumsfeld -- who is embroiled in his stubborn remaking of the United States military in his own vision. There are merits to his transformation, but there are more merits in fighting the war at your door than the one you'd like to see in theory.

Mr. President, you need to stop responding to all criticisms with campaign tactics. Rein in your dog, Cheney. Campaigns last a season or two for a reason, they become sluggish and tiresome for the very electorate they wish to pursue. It is almost a political rule: for every day you are on the offensive, the effectiveness of your offensive suffers.

Mr. President, if you are drawn into a constant campaign to defend your status quo policies, you will end up dooming your political party once the opposition finds a decent leader. Whatever you value from the past 5 years of your administration and the past 10 years of GOP governance is at stake, but not in 2006. Nancy Pelosi is a fine foe for a simple and overly aggressive strategist. The fact that the Bush administration and by default the entire nation is reliant upon better "facts on the ground in Iraq" is a great vulnerability for this country.

It is apparent, with a weak opposition and a "stay the course" president, that Iraq is the central front not just in the war on terror but also for anyone who would do us harm. Iraq, as such, will attract their continued involvement -- I speak of Iran. Al Qaeda will remain in Iraq precisely because we will remain. The harder we strike at them, the more will gather to their flag. Is it not clear that this is a vicious cycle that must at the very least be debated? Military planners admit that part of their strategy is to draw down forces to lessen the perception of America as an occupier. That is not "stay the course". That is a sea change in the course.

Unfortunately, drawing down troops is not enough to undermine the perception of Iraq as an occupied land. There will need to be a more complex change of course than just how many boots are on the ground -- though it is a good start. Our Iraqi policy and our troops need something imaginative from the government. They need to lift the idea of Iraqi occupation from the Arab consciousness.

One way to do that is to "cut and run". That is not a decent plan. Nor do I think it fair to call Murtha's idea such a plan. He spoke from exasperation and offered something interesting for the debate; a quick response force in the region to maintain U.S. influence (to a degree) but to also remove troops from harm's way.

If that is not the policy the public will endorse, then fine. But, the public must realize that the debate about policy has to be supported. Campaign style assaults across the aisle (either GOP slander or Democratic obstructionism and harping) do our nation harm. We are, on the whole, lead by a band of small men. Murtha, in this regard, and a few others are examples from our glorious past.

Perhaps we small players in the blogosphere can push the debate forward with hyperlinks and comment threads. Perhaps we bloggers can do something to advance the idea of debate beyond the political tactic of killing a resolution and a good idea (debate) before it even got started.

Support the troops. Support the debate.

How much does this country want from Iraq? Something on the order of an Eastern European democracy? That can be achieved. But, the present course seems to stoke the fires of a vicious sectarianism -- Bush should dread his legacy if this does not change.

In many ways, our government is still recovering from an undue siesta that began with "Mission Accomplished" -- when the real fight was joined. In the early waking hours of responsive military leadership, I can identify a sectarian police force as a major concern -- effectively equal in potential harm as the Sunni insurgency.

Leaving Iraq in the present state would be dishonorable, and note that Murtha never said to completely abandon the region. Leaving Iraq policy to Nancy Pelosi and Karl Rove would be a disgrace. It is not a disgrace nor a dishonor to stand by Murtha and against the status quo.


Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

Over on The Christian Prophet blog the Holy Spirit asks in regard to this Murtha episode who it was who lived by the phrase "We shall overcome!" Apparently those who stick it out when the going is tough are spiritually strong while those who give up are spiritually weak.

5:36 PM  

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