Iraq

More GOP Sens Sour on Surge Talk

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Via Drudge comes this AP report:

Congressional Republicans pushed back Monday against President Bush's decision to increase troop strength in Iraq, some voicing opposition while others urged holding the administration and Iraqi government more accountable for the war effort.

"We've had four other surges since we first went into Iraq," said Sen. Susan Collins, referring to the administration's plan for an additional 21,500 troops. "None of them produced a long-lasting change in the situation on the ground.

"So I am very skeptical that this surge would produce the desired outcome," said the Maine Republican….

Sen. John Warner of Virginia, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined Collins and Norm Coleman of Minnesota in producing…legislation expressing disagreement with Bush's plan. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., joined them.

None of these Reps–Collins, Warner, Coleman, are exactly hardcore Bushites, which may make their willingness to go public even more of a bellwether.

More here.

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  1. …to which Bush replied, “It HAS TO work! It JUST HAS TO!”

    Because this is a Scooby-Doo cartoon, right?

  2. “Sen. John Warner of Virginia, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined Collins and Norm Coleman of Minnesota in producing…legislation expressing disagreement with Bush’s plan. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., joined them.”

    That’s what I like to see! Disagreement being…um…expressed. Way to stick it to Mr. Bush!

    Honestly, though, I think that Jonathan Rauch is right. His great article on the surge actually served to change my mind about this topic. At first, I couldn’t believe that congress was being a bunch of bitches and sending a “nonbinding resolution expressing their disagreement” to the white house. But Rauch is right—if the Dems block this surge, and the war gets worse, then forever and ever on, the Republican punditry, etc., white house, all those jerkasses can hold their heads up in indignity and say “we COULD have won the war, if only the dems would have let us send those troops…it’s all their fault!” And whether or not it’s true wouldn’t matter…because it’s POSSIBLE, no matter how improbable.

  3. Norm Coleman was a pretty hardcore (or at least reliable) Bushite up until about a year ago. He was Senate pointman on defending Rove during Plamegate, fo example.

  4. Coleman was going to make a big name for himself by nailing George Galloway in his hearings into the Oil for Food scandal.

    Oops. It’s amazing how many of these Very Serious People have turned out to be such lighweights.

  5. I just can’t see the difficulty of forcing the decision to get the US out now.
    How can even a politician be on the fence on this one?
    Once we’re out, there will be no news coverage, for one thing. And, for another, nothing worse could happen than is already happening… at least from the point of view of affecting the US.

  6. Once we’re out, there will be no news coverage, for one thing.

    I guess if it isn’t on CNN, it isn’t happening.

    nothing worse could happen than is already happening… at least from the point of view of affecting the US.

    Other than the encouragement of our enemies, a major victory for the mullahs in Iran (you know, the ones speculating that they will only have to spend one bomb on the Israelis), the abandonment of our allies the Kurds, and the further destabilization and degradation of the Middle East in the ensuing Iraqi civil war.

    But no, none of that will be on us.

  7. if the Dems block this surge, and the war gets worse, then forever and ever on, the Republican punditry, etc., white house, all those jerkasses can hold their heads up in indignity and say “we COULD have won the war, if only the dems would have let us send those troops…it’s all their fault!”

    So what Rauch is saying is that it doesn’t matter if its the right thing to do, if it gives the other side a talking point. Isn’t that about it?

  8. Once we’re out, there will be no news coverage, for one thing.

    ruthless:
    Feel free to retract that statement.

  9. If we end up flying helicopters off the embassy roof, RC, everying you describe will come to pass.

    That’s why most of us are trying to end our involvement on better terms than that.

    When you argue “the surge works or bust!” you need to think seriously about what “bust” means.

  10. “So what Rauch is saying is that it doesn’t matter if its the right thing to do, if it gives the other side a talking point. Isn’t that about it?”

    There could very well be a next time. The last thing we need is for the idiotic non-thinking that got us into this war to rear its head again and get us into another one, given that this one is likely to end with “the encouragement of our enemies, a major victory for the mullahs in Iran (you know, the ones speculating that they will only have to spend one bomb on the Israelis), the abandonment of our allies the Kurds, and the further destabilization and degradation of the Middle East in the ensuing Iraqi civil war.”

    It’s clear that, even with all of the evidence in front of our eyes, the neoconservative true believers still believe they’re right, and that they’ll get the war right next time. The only way you people will be prevented from repeating this fiasco all over again is if the still-warm corpse of your failed ideology is thoroughly and irrefutably discreditted in our political culture.

    We cannot afford another one of these Missions to be Accomplished.

  11. “the further destabilization and degradation of the Middle East”

    Tell the truth, RC: if I look back through the archives to 2003, will I find you joking, “Destablize the Middle East? Oh, no!” in response to a war opponent offering that up as a reason to stay our hand?

  12. J sub D,
    Oh yeah. I forgot.
    George Clooney may fly over there and land briefly for a photo op.

  13. The idea of destabilizing the Middle East doesn’t bother me at all. What bugs me is that, after all is said and done, we’ve only managed to strengthen one of the worst players – Iran.

  14. “So what Rauch is saying is that it doesn’t matter if its the right thing to do, if it gives the other side a talking point. Isn’t that about it?”

    That’s merely one point among others…namely, that Bush can do what he wants, because there are ways around withholding funding. Supposedly, the White House already has the funds it needs to deply the surge numbers. Also, forcing the hand of the Maliki gov’t. Read his article if you want the whole thing. But from a dem’s realistic political standpoint, the last thing you want to do at this point is stand in the way of Bush’s one last stand, even if you know that stand is doomed. Oh, and by the way, RC, since when does anyone inside of the beltway have any concern over whether something is “the right thing to do”? Rauch’s comments may not be morally laudable, but they’re at least realistic.

  15. That’s merely one point among others…namely, that Bush can do what he wants, because there are ways around withholding funding.

    The military isn’t the president’s private toy. Congress can revoke his authorization to engage in military activity in Iraq. Our forces remain there because Congress still permits them to be there.

  16. BAGHDAD–“The last chance.” I hear these words a lot. So often, in fact, that it seems to be the common description for the new security plan. It’s become so pervasive that I hear now that it’s the last chance for Prime Minister Maliki, the last chance for President Bush, the last chance for Iraq to succeed as a democracy. It’s almost as if the new plan was a coin that can be flipped only once and which carries victory on one face and doom on the other.

    I think people who use this “last chance” idea are not helping Iraq or America or they are of the type of people who do not want to deal with the challenges seriously. This term has a tone of defeatism, it’s as if Iraq was a totally lost case while in fact the huge change that’s been happening in the form of replacing a totalitarian regime with a democratic one is a lengthy process that cannot be accomplished through military action alone; success has economic and social elements along with the military one in addition to international and regional cooperation. It is no wisdom to think of closing this file or abandoning it based on the results of one security operation.

    It is unfair to demand the impossible from the coming operations; total eradication of terrorism and militias within months is a long shot because the violence in Iraq is a result of domestic and regional conflicts that are not limited to Baghdad and it is part of heavy legacy of mistakes and evil the Baath Era left.

    I see that those who talk about last chances are in fact rushing failure in Iraq by putting a very high bar that is technically impossible to pass within months or a year.

    We need to identify what we really want to accomplish and can accomplish through this plan and in my opinion total victory over militias and terrorists is a fantasy, and there are several examples of advanced nations that still suffer from persistent armed factions like in Spain or even the UK, until recently.
    Let’s look at what’s possible. It is possible to stop the deterioration of security, limit the extension of insurgency and limit the influence of militias; these in my opinion should be the slogan of the new campaign. Let’s explore what can be technically done considering the capabilities and the challenges; I have a few points in this regard that I’d like to share:

    ? Liberating the sectors of Baghdad that are totally occupied by insurgents or militias through clearing and holding these sectors with sufficient troops after clearing them. In this way life can return to an acceptable condition similar to late 2003-early 2004.

    ? The above should be accompanied by collecting weapons off the streets. It is no secret that enormous amounts of weapons were grabbed by the people following the looting of camps of the former army in addition to weapons that were already stashed by members of the former regime and its security apparatus. This had not been dealt with seriously so far and it’s still not considered an act of terror by the government, on the contrary some describe possessing weapons, even illegal weapons an act of self-defense.

    Yes, having a weapon for defensive use is a justified need at this time but registering those weapons is of great importance to security. I’m not saying it’s possible to collect or register each and every weapon in Baghdad but serious effort must be put into this.

    ? Another possible and effective thing to do is helping a decent number of displaced families return to their homes. This would diminish the sectarian lines that are dividing the city and re-establish the diversity that is an integral part of Baghdad’s identity and social structure. We must act to reverse forced displacement and stop this alien phenomenon from becoming an unwritten law, so returning those families to their homes and providing them with protection will add a lot to stability and normalcy in Baghdad.

    It was good to see the economic factor getting some good attention in both Mr. Maliki’s and Mr. Bush’s plans because unemployment is one of the reasons young frustrated men choose a violent path to make money and this is more evident with militias such as the Mehdi Army whose main ranks are filled with young men who fit into this category.

    Speaking of the Mehdi Army, the word here is that they will try to avoid a direct confrontation as they’ve been through it before and had seen its heavy price. Moreover, militias have an advantage over insurgents or al Qaeda that they occupy many seats inside the parliament and cabinet and enjoy privileges that they wouldn’t like to lose. That’s why their response to the threat came in two elements to avoid a costly confrontation and to maintain the no-peace, no-war status that serves this faction’s interests.

    The first element is represented by ending their boycott of the cabinet and parliament that was started when Mr. Maliki met with Mr. Bush. Back then the Sadrists put high demands in return for ending the boycott but now things have changed as they began to realize the change in Mr. Maliki’s attitude so they are now presenting much lower demands.

    Al-Sabah had a brief report about this: “Nassar al-Rubai’i the chief member of the Sadr’s bloc in the parliament said in a statement that the movement would resume political work very soon ‘talks are under way in this regard and progressing well. The Sadr bloc will be back in the parliament and government very soon . . . ‘ ”

    The second element is tactical military; Azzaman reported that Sadr made direct orders for the ranks of his militia to avoid open war with the U.s. military:

    Commanders of the Mehdi Army in Baghdad received strict orders not to fire a single bullet during the American military campaign in Baghdad . . an informed source told Azzaman that the meeting was held in a place in sector 42 of Sadr city and many of the Mehdi Army leaders attended it while others missed it because they were already in Iran since last week. The top lieutenants as well didn’t show up because they were ordered a few days ago to abandon Sadr city and spread in the southern provinces and other parts of the capital . . . the source explained that the orders were given to show full cooperation with the American forces during the raids and show no resistance even when arrests are made. The commanders were promised that the police would take care of releasing any detainees once “the storm is gone . . .”
    What options will the Iraqi and U.S. military have when the militia melt and avoid the confrontation? We know that the Mehdi Army does not have camps or barracks or any solid foundations that can be targeted; the militia is merely a network of civilian-looking people who can turn into a deadly force at any time they choose to do so.

    However, what troops can do is to target the top leaders and lieutenants of the militia who have a criminal history and made mistakes (whether by physical act or statements) for which they can be legally prosecuted. When this is done the network will be dealt a serious blow and will be weakened by the subsequent loss of command and financial support and then the wide network would disintegrate into isolated gangs that can be dealt with through limited operations following the main operations.
    After all, the plan must involve cleaning up the security forces from bad elements by excluding those with who joined the forces to serve a certain party or sect and rehabilitating the army and police forces on basis of competence and loyalty to the country. This country will not be able to enforce the law and contain the violence until the people can trust the security forces and the latter will not be strong enough until they get rid of the harmful elements who are breaking the law and causing much of the trouble.

    Again, I hope to see realism in setting achievable goals by the Iraqi and U.S. leadership–fixing our eyes on the possible and achievable for now will pave the ground for more steps forward in the future.

  17. Hey A Real Iraqi,

    If you’re not a member of the Reason gang, your perspective is worthless. So sit down and shut up!

  18. Oh, and by the way, RC, since when does anyone inside of the beltway have any concern over whether something is “the right thing to do”?

    Certainly not arguing that point.

    Rauch’s comments may not be morally laudable, but they’re at least realistic.

    Oddly, though, many of the people who agree with him screech loudest about how horrible the so called “realpolitik” practitioners were and are.

  19. Tell the truth, RC: if I look back through the archives to 2003, will I find you joking, “Destablize the Middle East? Oh, no!” in response to a war opponent offering that up as a reason to stay our hand?

    Destabilize it to what end, joe? As a step toward getting rid of the current corrupt klepto/authoritarians (as the Iraq war could have done) or as a step toward empowering them (as the “get out now” plan will do).

  20. “Oddly, though, many of the people who agree with him screech loudest about how horrible the so called “realpolitik” practitioners were and are.”

    And despicable they are. What does that have to do with, given their position, what seems to be the logical course politically, even though it’s not the “right” course?

  21. Eric the .5b,

    “The idea of destabilizing the Middle East doesn’t bother me at all. What bugs me is that, after all is said and done, we’ve only managed to strengthen one of the worst players – Iran.”

    The two are not contradictory – during times of crisis, people look for a strong man to protect them. Look at how our country rallied ’round the flag after 9/11.

    “The military isn’t the president’s private toy. Congress can revoke his authorization to engage in military activity in Iraq. Our forces remain there because Congress still permits them to be there.”

    Since the matter has never really been put to the test – a president has never dug his heels in against a Congress determined to end a war – I don’t see how you can be so confident.

    The President has inherent authority for force protection, “hot pursuit,” and defense against (and even response to, to an extent) attacks against our country or its forces. With forces deployed in a hostile environment, an excuse along these lines can always be ginned up.

  22. “Destabilize it to what end, joe?”

    That’s the thing with flipping a coin – it can come up heads, or it can come up tails.

    Even if you really, really want it to come up heads, the act of flipping it is a 50/50 proposition.

  23. Since the matter has never really been put to the test – a president has never dug his heels in against a Congress determined to end a war – I don’t see how you can be so confident.

    Because I think I still live in a country with checks and balances. The executive branch carries out the prosecution of wars, but the legislative branch authorizes the wars. Our military occupies Iraq under a Congressional authorization to use force, even if war is not declared. Unless I missed a revocation of a law, the president may not deploy troops more than 90 days without Congressional authorization. A president defying that can and should face impeachment.

    Now, if I’m wrong…well, we’re more fucked than even I thought, and Iraq is the least of our problems. But, if we have any semblance of constitutional governance left, Congress still has the necessary authority.

  24. I hope you are correct.

  25. A real Iraqi,

    Thanks very much for your perspective. What you say makes a great deal of sense. The “last chance” rhetoric from the American perspective simply the statement that all patience is gone and this surge, if it is allowed, will be the last concerted attempt to change the deteriorating course of the Iraq war.

    On the Iraqi side, I think the “last chance” means that Maliki is out of time and props from the Americans; he needs to make real and substantial progress about creating a political environment that will reduce the sectarian violence.

    I agree with you that it is unreasonable to expect instant, total success; that just won’t happen.

    Up to this point Maliki has appeared to be just a Sadr stooge, but I am enocuraged at his recent cooperation in dealing with Shi’ites with bad intentions; that is something he did not do before.

    One of the main thrusts of the surge will be to clear neighborhoods of insurgents and then to hold them, thus establishing a safe environment for ordinary Iraqis who want peace.

  26. “””if the Dems block this surge, and the war gets worse, then forever and ever on, the Republican punditry, etc., white house, all those jerkasses can hold their heads up in indignity and say “we COULD have won the war, if only the dems would have let us send those troops…it’s all their fault!” “”””

    Of course!!! That’s par for politics. But the flipside is that if the surge fails, the Dems that supported it can say we gave the President every opprotunity and he failed miserably. It’s ALL the Presidents fault. We gave him what he wanted and it still sucked!!!

    Iraq is so screwed up I don’t see much to lose in giving the President enough rope for the surge.

    “””One of the main thrusts of the surge will be to clear neighborhoods of insurgents and then to hold them, thus establishing a safe environment for ordinary Iraqis who want peace.”””

    We may or may not have enought troops to do that, if so, probably only Baghdad. So I’m betting the insugency will move to a differnet city a raise hell there. That will require us to do one of two things. Send even more troops to take an hold the next city or (most likely) send troops from Baghdad. That will reduce our troop presents (our hold) and the insurgence will come back to Baghdad and we will be back to square one.

    I’m betting it will become another sad episode of Keystone cops.

    Gen Eric Shiniski wanted 200,000+ troops for the invasion. There was a reason for it.

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