The Democrats search for defeat without consequencies
Many Democrats in Congress believe the war in Iraq is irretrievably lost, or that it would redound to their political advantage if it were lost. But they don't want to be blamed for the consequences of defeat.Gen. Petraeus has begun to execute his plan. He is the guy who wrote the book on counterinsurgency warfare and he knows much more about it than Jack Murtha or Carl Levin. He has an honest plan for solving the problem in Iraq, which is more than can be said for the Democrats desperate for defeat, while avoiding responsibility for defeat.
This has placed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in something of a quandary. The Constitution provides Congress with a means to end the war: Congress can cut off funding. But if Congress were to cut off money for the war in Iraq, and if all the bad things the intelligence community predicts would happen if we withdraw precipitously did happen, it would be pretty clear who was responsible for those bad things. And because it would be pretty clear who was responsible, many queasy Democrats in the House and Senate might not vote to cut off funds, giving the leadership an embarrassing defeat if it moved to do so.
So the Democrats may adopt what's been called the "slow bleed" strategy. Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Johnstown, outlined it last week in an interview with the left wing Web site MoveCongress.org. The strategy would be to impose, through amendments to the defense appropriations bill, so many restrictions on U.S. troops that the president's plan for a surge would be hamstrung.
There are, from the Democrats' perspective, two clever things about the "slow bleed" strategy. The first is that sabotaging the war effort in this way would not be nearly as clear cut as it would be by a vote to cut off funds, thus making it easier to evade blame for the consequences of defeat. The second is that if Congress passes a defense appropriations bill with these restrictions, President Bush would be left with three unpalatable choices: He could sign the bill and accept the restrictions, thus accepting slow defeat in Iraq. He could sign the bill and ignore the restrictions on the grounds that they are an unconstitutional trespass on his powers as commander in chief (which they would be), thus provoking a constitutional crisis. Or he could veto the bill, and thus risk defunding the war himself, should Congress not promptly pass a defense appropriations bill shorn of the restrictions.
Let us set aside for the moment what the "slow bleed" strategy would say about the honesty and character of the Democratic leadership in Congress if it chooses to pursue it and focus on the wisdom, or lack of it, of making the sabotaging of the war effort foremost on the Democratic agenda.
A large majority of Americans are unhappy with the conduct of the war in Iraq, and a majority thinks it was a mistake to go to war with Saddam Hussein in the first place. But recent opinion polls make clear that most Americans still want us to win, and think we can.
Although barely begun, the troop surge already is producing positive results. Al-Qaida operatives are reported to be evacuating Baghdad, and Moqtada al Sadr and senior commanders of his Iranian-backed militia, the Mahdi army, are lying low and may have taken refuge in Iran. As a consequence, the number of attacks in Baghdad has declined by 80 percent, the Iraqi defense ministry said last week.