Supporting Troops, Withdrawing, and Politics

March 29, 2007 | By | 6 Replies More

The bill to set withdrawal timetables from Iraq has passed, on its way now to the President’s desk–where it will be vetoed.  Democrats will work on this issue from now on, presumably with an eye toward using it as a campaign issue to gain more seats and hopefully hand the White House to a Democrat.  All well and good.  Bush has made a hash of this war.

What does disturb me is the trend toward thinking that cutting funding for the war is a useful tool.  Congress can’t order Bush to pull out, but it does control the purse, and as such it can–presumably–make it impossible for the President to conduct the war.  But we all, if we’re honest, know very well that that’s not how it will play out.

I am apalled at this war, but let me be clear–had Bush contented himself with going into Afghanistan and dealing with that, I would have backed him.  Perhaps he or his cronies would have made a hash of that, too, but I saw Afghanistan as a legitimate enterprise.  The Taliban were harboring Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban itself made its political feelings toward us very clear.  Also, Afghanistan is right next to Pakistan, which is and has been a seed bed of problems for some time.  Pakistan was a source for nuclear technology to rogue states, it has a big problem with extremists, and the Taliban launched their invasion of Afghanistan from there and use it to hide.  Pakistan is potentially a lot of trouble.  So I had no real problem with going into Afghanistan. 

I always thought the Iraq move was stupid and unnecessary.

But.

There is and never has been neat ways to disentangle from messes and what I dislike about the Democrat’s threat to cut funding for the war is that it uses the troops on the ground as a political football.  Bush is already doing that.  For the Democrats to join the game is one of the reasons I tend to curse both parties.

If the expectation is that when the money dries up, the troops will come home, then we all have to realize that Republicans and Democrats are engaging in a game of political chicken.  Who will flinch first.  Because as long as Bush is in charge, they won’t come home.  They’ll simply be tasked to do the job with less.  Or he’ll find the money somewhere else.  (Anyone remember Reagan?)  But it will not be the neat, tidy quid pro quo  the Democrats expect everyone to believe it will be.  And the ones who will pay for this game of chicken will be the soldiers.

The way to get out of Iraq, the best way possible, is to wait for a new administration, preferably Democrat, and then do it by open and uncompetitive means.  It will take longer.  But if the Democrats push this money thing in order to make Bush look worse than he does, then they will be no better than him, using the troops to make political points.  Perhaps their strategy will be viable–more and bloodier casualties will wash over the Republicans and sweep some more of them out of office–but it the same kind of callous politicking we’ve been accusing the Republicans of all along.

And by the way, McCain and others are correct about setting timetables.  The insurgents will just hunker down and wait.  The big losers then will be the Iraqis who really are trying to make their country work.  That may not be an argument for us to stay, but it is a consequence that has sound historical precedent–Vietnam and Cambodia to name two.

I think we’ve hashed up Iraq.  I say we because of the nature of our electorate, so whether as individuals we support this war or not, it remains a We issue.  Staying may not help.  Leaving will only help us.  Had there been a plan before the invasion or any semblence of responsible oversite during, we might have actually succeeded in something.  So I’m for gettng out.  But I believe everyone ought to know what that means and I resent the Democrats–who I voted for in the last election–playing politics with the very troops they claim to be supporting.

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Current Events, Iraq, Military, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (6)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Jason writes: "…what I dislike about the Democrat’s threat to cut funding for the war is that it uses the troops on the ground as a political football."

    That statement ignores a critical point: Democrats are not the ones keeping troops on the ground where they don't belong; therefore, the Democrat threat to cut Bush's funding is not a matter of using the troops to make political points, it is a matter of using the only tool Democrats have to rein in an insane president.

    Read this article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070329/ap_on_go_co/u

    The article quotes Bush as saying, "We (Republicans) stand united in saying loud and clear that when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded, and we got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders." Excuse me, but "we" don't have troops in harm's way, Bush does. The only reason American troops are in harm's way is because Bush is too belligerent and incompetent to take them out of harm's way. Obviously, it is utter nonsense for Bush to keep a troop in harm's way for no legitimate reason, and then to argue that "when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded." That's like a parent forcing his child to cross a busy highway and then declaring, "we must pay for crossing guards on this highway because children are crossing it." Nonsense. The solution is not to pay for crossing guards; the solution is to stop the lunatic parent from putting his child in harm's way.

    Likewise, it is also nonsense to argue that America should not set a timetable because "The insurgents will just hunker down and wait." Does it seem likely that the insurgents will "just hunker down and wait," given that they NEVER done so yet, no matter how many troops Bush sends to Iraq? Furthermore, what if the insurgents do "just hunker down and wait?" Exactly what is so awful about that? Are you afraid that suicide bombings might stop for a while, or that execution-style killings might stop for a bit? Don't we WANT the insurgents to stop their attacks, even for a little while, so we can try to find a solution to the Iraq problem that doesn't involve so much slaughter? If we can get the insurgents to stop their attacks for a year while America pulls its troops out, what is so awful? Maybe it gives the Iraqi authorities some breathing room to create some credibility for themselves, or time to infiltrate the insurgent groups, or time to find some other solution. In any case, the truth is that WE DON'T KNOW what would happen if America sets a timetable, but we DO know that Bush's tactics have been failing miserably for the past HALF DECADE, so maybe we should at least do something to try to stem the violence for a while, to try to make some progress. If setting a timetable will stop the slaughter for a while, then let's set a timetable! If the worst that happens is that the insurgents "just hunker down and wait," then who says we must stick to our timetable? Maybe we set a timetable and the insurgents "hunker down," and then we set ANOTHER timetable when the first one is about to expire. At least we've stopped the killing for a time. Who knows, maybe we can just keep setting timetables for the next fifty years while the insurgents "just hunker down and wait."

    See, the thing to keep in mind is that when Republicans warn of some horrible thing that might happen, we need to ask ourselves if that horrible thing is really all that horrible, because it might not be nearly as horrible as they want us to believe.

  2. Chris says:

    It's better than waiting 2 full years, because the troops are the ones that are going to suffer for *that*, too. Even more so than they'll suffer for a year of budget chicken. The "political point" the Democrats are trying to make is that getting the troops out of the line of fire would be a good thing. Is it really so horrible to draw attention to the casualties they're taking in order to make that point?

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    Grumpy,

    I didn't say I didn't want them home. I was pointing out certain probabilities and also the fact that the Democrats know full well the president won't do what they want, no matter what they don't give him.

    As for the hunkering down thing, you have a good point. Since the one salient fact of the Iraq civil war is that the main casualties are Iraqis, which suggests that Iraqis are the primary target and our presence is just an excuse for them to kill fifty or sixty more of their own people (presumably) then you're right–our leaving won't make a damn bit of difference.

  4. Vicki Baker says:

    I agree with Grumpy that this is the the "only tool Democrats have to rein in an insane president." I don't think our continued presence can achieve anything at this point.

    But in working with SE asian refugees in the 1980's I heard way too many interviews that went like this:

    Before 1975, I was a teacher/soldier/farmer/mechanic.

    After 1975, re-education camp/Pol Pot time/seminar.

    After the Shiite uprising following the Gulf War, the agency I worked for also resettled some young male refugees from Iraq whose country of first asylum had been Saudi Arabia, They reported brutal treatment including rape by the authorities there. All this makes me very apprehensive about the aftermath of our withdrawal.

    I hope the US and international NGO's are preparing for a massive worsening of the present refugee crisis in the countries around Iraq when we pull out.

  5. Jason Rayl says:

    Chris,

    It will take two full years anyway, since the initial timetables are for late 2008–just in time for the election!–and when the haggling starts…

    The most reliable way to get the troops home is to win the next presidential election. Which is partly why the Dems are doing this–it will make great campaign copy.

    Am I cynical?

    You bet.

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    Vicki B. brings up a good point about the refugee problem. That's an issue we haven't heard much about in the MSM, though just this week I heard an interview about it on NPR. According to the interviewee, nearly everyone who can get out of Iraq has already left. The ones left behind are either too poor to leave or too undesirable for other countries to take them. Indeed, Iraq has already sustained a major brain-drain, because Iraq's rich and educated were the first ones out. The interviewee also pointed out that once an Iraqi leaves Iraq, s/he might find it virtually impossible to return, even if s/he wants to, because of a lack of verifiable documentation, the tightness of Iraq's border security (at official crossings anyway), and the looting that occurs after people leave. If Iraq's best and brightest do face a one-way gate that prevents them from returning, then who will rebuild their country? The poor and the criminal who couldn't leave in the first place? Seen in this light, the refugee problem takes on a disturbing significance: Iraq might be headed for an economic and cultural collapse no matter if U.S. troops stay there or not, because the country will lack the human and financial resources necessary to rebuild.

    A similar problem can happen to an army. It has long been known that defeating an army does not require defeating (e.g., killing) every soldier. All that is required is to defeat enough soldiers so that the remaining troops can no longer function as an effective fighting force. This might involve defeating, for example, only 30-40% of the enemy troops — just enough to throw the remaining troops into chaos. If it can happen to an army (in which the soldiers are trained to fill alternate roles if some among their ranks are killed), then it can certainly happen to a civilian population.

    I'll end this comment by pointing out, again, that Iraq has NEVER been a military threat to America, so the notion that a military solution will fix things simply makes no sense. The current problem in Iraq screams for political acumen…a quality the Bush Administration not only conspicuously lacks, but also is conspicuously *unaware* that it lacks. Instead of complaining that Democrats don't give our troops the support they need, the Bush Administration should put more effort into making sure our troops get the *leadership* they need.

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