February 14, 2007

A Slow Bleed To Defeat

As the new Democratic majority took control of Congress, bloggers across the spectrum generally agreed the Democrats had three options to satisfy their anti-war base and stage a meaningful objection to the war in Iraq. First, they could end all funding for the war, which would leave them with the responsibility for everything that followed afterwards. Second, they could issue no-confidence motions in an attempt to humiliate George Bush into withdrawing from Iraq. Third, they could run so many investigations into war management that it would force the Pentagon to use its resources on fighting political battles rather than wage war.

Unfortunately, none of us considered a fourth option -- a slow bleed of funding that will allow Democrats to defund the war while blaming the White House for mismanaging the remaining resources:

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.

The legislative strategy will be supplemented by a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign designed to pressure vulnerable GOP incumbents into breaking with President Bush and forcing the administration to admit that the war is politically unsustainable.

As described by participants, the goal is crafted to circumvent the biggest political vulnerability of the anti-war movement -- the accusation that it is willing to abandon troops in the field. That fear is why many Democrats have remained timid in challenging Bush, even as public support for the president and his Iraq policies have plunged.

Murtha and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have decided that they must take the lead in pressuring not only Republicans but also cautious Senate Democrats to take steps more aggressive than nonbinding resolutions in challenging the Bush administration.

It comes as no surprise that John Murtha leads this effort. The war critic has schemed for the last two years to find a way to end American deployment in Iraq. He learned from the lopsided shellacking he took in 2005 when Republicans proposed his demand for a vote that Americans will not countenance a bug-out. He has instead tried to shift the blame to the Republicans while slowly boxing the White House into a retreat.

How one sees this depends on how one sees the war, I imagine. My friends on the starboard side of the blogospere are aghast at Murtha's conniving. They see it as an underhanded way to end a war. Those who hate the war see it as a big win, because it will both eventually end the war and put the onus on the collapse afterwards on the White House. The portosphere hails this new strategy as the realization of the true message of the midterms.

Perhaps both are correct, although I believe the anti-war impulse had less to do with the midterm results than with Republican arrogance in ethics and spending. Regardless, the Murtha slow-bleed plan will wind up sacrificing American soldiers in order to protect the Democratic Party. If Murtha wants an end game of a complete withdrawal, then that's what he should propose. Instead, he wants to steadily decrease the level of support for American troops in a theater of war, putting them increasingly at risk by starving them of resources, including reinforcements.

That may help the Democrats avoid responsibility for the ultimate collapse -- although I doubt Americans or historians will buy that -- but it does so via a deeply cynical political mechanism. Say what you will about the war in Iraq, but it had the best of intentions from the start: freeing the Iraqis from oppression and giving a region of tyrannies and kleptocracies an example of how liberty could free them and allow Arabic culture to blossom into modernity. The Murtha slow bleed offers no vision except defeat, retreat, and humiliation, all paid with the sacrifice of unsupported American troops.

That's what makes this so reprehensible, and that's why the GOP has to unite to stop it.


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» Democrats Bleed Life from Iraq from Church and State
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John Murtha (D-PA), speaking about his new “Slow Bleed” plan for surrender in Iraq, said of our troops, “They won’t have the equipment, they don’t have the training, and they won’t be able to do the work.” It’s long been kno... [Read More]