November 17, 2005

McCain on the Congressional Iraq Going-Ons


Mr. President, the Iraq amendment under consideration today constitutes no run-of-the-mill resolution and reporting requirement. It is much more important than that, and likely to be watched closely in Iraq – more closely there, in fact, than in America. In considering this amendment, I urge my colleagues to think hard about the message we send to the Iraqi people. I believe that, after considering how either version will be viewed in Iraq, we must reject both.

“Reading through each version, one gets the sense that the Senate’s foremost objective is the drawdown of American troops. But America’s first goal in Iraq is not to withdraw troops, it is to win the war. All other policy decisions we make should support, and be subordinate to, the successful completion of our mission. If that means we can draw down troop levels and win in Iraq in 2006, that is wonderful. But if success requires an increase in American troop levels in 2006, then we should increase our numbers there.

But that’s not what these amendments suggest. They signal that withdrawal, not victory, is foremost in Congress’ mind, and suggest that we are more interested in exit than victory. Mr. President, a date is not an exit strategy. This only encourages our enemies, by indicating that the end to American intervention is near, and alienates our friends, who fear an insurgent victory. Instead, both our friends and our enemies need to hear one message: America is committed to success in Iraq and we will win this war.

“The Democratic version requires the President to develop a withdrawal plan. Think about this for a moment. Imagine Iraqis, working for the new government, considering whether to join the police forces, or debating whether or not to take up arms. What will they think, Mr. President, when they learn that the Democrats are calling for a withdrawal plan? The Republican alternative, while an improvement, indicates that events in 2006 should create the conditions for a redeployment of U.S. forces. Are these the messages we wish to send, Mr. President? Do we wish to respond to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who have put their faith and trust in America and the Iraqi government, that our number one priority is now bringing our people home? Do we want to tell insurgents that their violence has successfully ground us down, that their horrific acts will, with enough time, be successful? No, Mr. President, we must not send these messages. Our exit strategy in Iraq is not the withdrawal of our troops, it is victory.

“If we can reach victory in 2006, that would be wonderful. But should 2006 not be the landmark year that these amendments anticipate, we will have once again unrealistically raised the expectations of the American people. That can only cost domestic support for America’s role in this conflict, a war we must win.

What a pity a man of John Warner's distinction leant his prestige to this lame resolution. March Rumsfeld over to the Congress and ask him hard questions--week after week if need be--to gauge progress on the war. But don't send a weak message to our enemies that reeks of eroding resolve. While I've been with Kos on torture, I'm with Hugh Hewitt on this one. Pathetic, indeed.

Posted by Gregory at November 17, 2005 12:04 AM | TrackBack (2)

Greg knows, or ought to, that President Rums...sorry, let me try that again.

Greg knows, or ought to, that President Bush's administration designed strategy and tactics for this war since 2002 with minimal input from Congress and the Senate in particular. This week's rebellion against this -- in the context, for sure, of a war that is not going particularly well at the moment and the outcome of which is in doubt -- is not about "sending messages" to Iraq. It is about sending messages down Pennsylvania Avenue.

As for what Iraqis might think of it, I haven't talked to any lately, so I can't say. Perhaps Greg has, and this accounts for the certainty of his statements on this subject. I make no judgments about this. Ultimately, though, Iraqis must make Iraq work. We cannot afford to keep sending tens of billions of borrowed money there the way we are now, nor can we afford to mortgage the rest of American foreign and defense policy to this one country. If Iraqis can make some form of democracy work, it will be a marvelous accomplishment, but similar accomplishments in the past have often -- indeed, have almost always -- been achieved because people feared the alternative was disaster. Throwing that alternative into relief might not be the worst thing for us now; indeed, I would be surprised if the Senate resolution did not already figure prominently in Amb. Khalilzad's discussions with Iraqi politicians. Iraq has many men now, especially among its Sunni Arabs, who want bloodshed, but it has many more who have ample reason not to want to risk everything they have on the outcome of a civil war. To avoid this they will have to do things in the political sphere that will not come naturally to them, and it is necessary that they demonstrate some sense of urgency. The threat of an American withdrawal may prompt that urgency, or it may not, but it's the card we have.

Posted by: JEB at November 17, 2005 03:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Following is a letter sent to all the pathetic Republican weasels in the Senate.


Re: The American Surrender Resolution of 2005

I am named for an uncle who gave his life in the Pacific in 1942 for the freedom of this nation and its principles. My father lost a lung to bunker oil in the waters of the Pacific in 1943 for this nation and its principles. I carry shrapnel from two combat wounds and wear a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat “V”, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, and two Purple Hearts acquired while defending this nation’s principles on the rivers of Vietnam in 1968 and ‘69. I believe this grants me moral authority to say what follows.

I finally became a fully committed Republican in 1974 when a Democratic Congress voted to defund support of our allies in South Vietnam. That act of moral cowardice and treachery to our founding principles led to the death of millions in the killing fields of Southeast Asia.

Your vote yesterday in favor of what I’m calling the “American Surrender Resolution of 2005” is a travesty unparalleled in post-Vietnam American history. Your cowardice in face of an electorate deliberately misled by Democrats and a traitorous National Media is beneath contempt. It will lead directly to the death of now uncountable Americans and Iraqis and their graves will lie directly at your feet. Senator, you are a moral coward and the worst type of political panderer.

This vote provides direct aid and comfort to our avowed enemies. It disqualifies you to serve in elective office. I will work tirelessly to assure you are removed from office at the earliest possible date. I will spare no treasure or waking moment in this quest and anticipate the moment I can spit on your political grave.

I commend with all honors the 13 Republican senators who stood up against the me-too cowardly Republican leadership: Bunning, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, DeMint, Graham, Inhofe, Isakson, Kyl, McCain, Sessions, Thune, and Vitter. You should look to them for the courage you obviously lack.


G. Thomas Mortensen
USA S/V Anticipation
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Posted by: RiverRat at November 17, 2005 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Republican alternative, while an improvement, indicates that events in 2006 should create the conditions for a redeployment of U.S. forces. Are these the messages we wish to send, Mr. President? Do we wish to respond to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who have put their faith and trust in America and the Iraqi government, that our number one priority is now bringing our people home? Do we want to tell insurgents that their violence has successfully ground us down, that their horrific acts will, with enough time, be successful?"

The GOP res does NOT say that exit is priority over victory - it does say that wed LIKE to see the BEGINNING of exit in 2006. Which I think is undeniable. Look, Talabani, the president of Iraq is talking about it. Tony Blair is talking about it. How can it be so treasonable for the Senate to express it is as a goal, albeit a soft goal? Surely that IS the direction we want to go?

I like Sen McCain a great deal, but he IS capable of demagoguing, just like everybody else.

Theres also political reality here at home. What would have been the consequence of NOT proposing the GOP resolution? Would all the Senate Republicans, plus the 5 Dems who voted against the Dem resolution (including Lieberman) all have happily voted for a stirring McCain call for victory? Or would the Dem resolution, with its exit timetable, have passed? People like Frist count votes as part of their job - McCain does not, apparently.

Look, the electorate has been hearing about the "quagmire" for a long time. A story like the clearing of the airport gets covered in the WaPo once, and disappears. US casualty figures get played over and over. The operations in Anbar province are a fog to most. Contrary to what some seem to beleive, emphasizing how badly things are going doesnt get ordinary folks (who dont read the Weekly Standard, and dont see what the big deal would be about leaving Iraq) revved up to send MORE troops in - it leaves them looking for the exits.

Greg, have you ever read the history of the American Civil War? Its hard to imagine that Iraq descending into chaos would be more of a security threat to the United States than the independence of the Confederacy would have been - but at moments when things were going badly in the war, the public began to shift toward the "peace" camp - and only came back when there was tangible evidence of victory. The belief that bad news, in a situation like this, will lead to greater determination on the part of the electorate represents a grave misreading of the public psychology, I fear.

Posted by: liberalhawk at November 17, 2005 03:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Someone as smart as you and as well-informed should have a better understanding of the situation in Iraq on a purely 'realist' basis. Have you studied counterinsurgency campaigns undetaken by western democracies in the 20'th century? Have you noticed how few of them have ended in total victory, meaning the destruction of violent opposing forces?

I've been against the war in Iraq since the beginning because counterinsurgencies in the 20'th century are almost always:

1. inevitably promoting the moral degradation of the republic leading them - something you yourself has noticed

2. injurious to the internal stability and financial health of the nation leading them, to the point of threatening long-term american decline at the cost of persusing them

3. almost impossible to win outright.

I'm sure McCain is sincere, but I'm also sure that he has fallen into the same insurgency trap that you seem to have fallen into.

The trap is this: when any goal short of total destruction of the enemy is seen as surrender, and total destruction of the enemy is virtually impossible, you have lost control of the battle to the insurgents. When you surrender to thinking this way, you lose your ability to judge when military force is useful and when it is subject to diminishing returns. We're long past that point in Iraq. The Islamo-fascists, to use a hawkish term, have us in a Chinese finger-trap, and as long as we can't gather the insight to see this, we are going to continue to unwittingly bolster their cause even as we strive to destroy them.

Your desire to see a stable, liberal Iraq is admirable, and you strive not to be entirely corrupted by the singularity of that desire, but you're eventually going to realize, as Murtha has, that we are literally shooting ourselves in the foot every day towards the very goals we want to achieve, and it's not because Bush is incompetent, not entirely. It's the nature of the insurgency trap. You can't put a vase back together with a hammer, no matter how much you want it, and no matter how hard you wield it, and no matter how long you persist.

Posted by: glasnost at November 19, 2005 06:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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