John McCain has decided to eschew the competing resolutions expressing disfavor with the new White House surge strategy in favor of an open-ended series of benchmarks intended to demonstrate what progress in Iraq will look like. The resolution gives no deadlines but does describe the process by which the Pentagon should measure success. Here is the conclusion on McCain’s bill:
Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that —
(1) Congress should ensure that General David Petraeus, the Commander of Multinational Forces – Iraq, and all United States personnel under his command, have the resources they consider necessary to carry out their mission on behalf of the United States in Iraq; and
(2) that the Government of Iraq must make visible, concrete progress toward meeting the political, economic, and military benchmarks enumerated in the preamble to this Resolution.
McCain obviously wants to offer a way for the Senate to demonstrate its frustration, but directed in such a way that it does not unduly damage the mission. Its benchmarks are reasonable, and open to definition to some extent. They include:
* deploying a “significant number” of Iraqi forces to secure Baghdad
* speeding up the transfer of responsibility for provincial security
* disarmig militias and ensuring the loyalty of the state forces to the Iraqi constitution
* equitable distribution of resources (oil revenues)
* building an effective and independent judiciary
* enforcing the law without regard to sect or ethnicity
* conducting long-overdue provincial elections
* building a process for amending the constitution that is fair to all
* $10 billion in cash for reconstruction
All of these are common sense goals, and the resolution wisely leaves out any timetables. Some would have to get accomplished before others, security most of all. It also stresses the unanimous confirmation of Petraeus as mission commander in a not-so-subtle hint that a resolution torpedoing his strategies before he even arrives to tak command is more than a little hypocritical.
Will it be enough to mollify those who abhor the sight of Congress demanding defeat and withdrawal while making enough of a statement of general impatience to attract support from Republican Senators? It might. Its entry does one more thing — it gives fence-sitters on Warner-Levin a reason to vote against it in favor of the McCain resolution. That may be enough to ensure a filibuster on the resolution making its way through the Senate committee chain now.
UPDATE: I will definitely review this on my Blog Talk Radio show tonight at 9 pm CT. Be sure to tune in and join the conversation by calling 646-552-4889!