So, the Democrats in the US Congress have passed some legislation that the President is going to veto. The fight they picked is a very useful one, and it has the nation talking. Before such measures, it was only speculation that a United States Congress would actually demand an arbitrary end to a military action. Now, that is a reality. What has this changed? Not much, but this is useful because it is forcing Americans to actually speak to other Americans about their differences of opinion. Yeah, there's still that too-loud din of pundits yelling loudly at one another over soundbytes, but we are suddenly faced with the very real and very obvious truth that there is no one at the wheel of our ship of state, and that's forcing a lot of folks to look at what they think and why.
This debate is between a bad idea and a worse idea. Neither is actually helpful to the nation, both are terribly expensive 'plans' (I use that term because, like every member of the American political class, I apparently lack a better one), both options have very, very heavy ink in the 'con' column. So we are really left looking at these two paths and making a decision over which one will do the least catastrophic damage.
Because, and let us not kid ourselves any longer, we have turned that corner where the term 'catastrophic' becomes attached to either side of the argument.
I mean, let us call this like it is: we have a Commander in Chief who has proven his strategic incompetence and inexplicable inability to win a war arguing against a Thin Majority of Legislators who no longer wish to deal with strategic incompetence and inability. This is providing us with the mother of all disingenuous debates.
Let us look at some of these arguements:
"Congress is interfering with the ability of the troops and the generals from making the tactical decisions they need to make to win the war." First of all, coming from a President who left Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense while the US military was engaged in a real, shooting war has very little room to talk about someone else's interference with Generals. In spite of that, our troops and generals have won hundreds of tactical, on-the-ground victories. What happened to those victories? The strategy abandoned whatever those victories had won by providing no cohesion, no projection of power, no diplomatic and political support to solidify those gains.
It is my opinion that we have been fighting the Iraq war since 1991, and in my opinion, our mighty military has been victorious enough to have 'won' this thing about 12 times over. It was always the politics of the situation that allowed victory to slip away.
"The consequences would be disasterous." Yes. Yes they would. But here's the rub: will those consequences be more or less disasterous than the consequences of the policy we are currently engaged in? There is, at this point, no way to tell.
"Give the 'surge' a chance to take effect, and give the generals time to win." More of the same is not a winning strategy in Iraq, and proves, to me at least, that this Commander in Chief is not the 'closer' we need to bring about the end game. There is something he still does not understand, on a fundamental level, about how to be a leader.
"If we leave now, Iran and Syria will have their run of the place." Really? They appear to be having so much trouble with that right now, they can snatch Royal Navy personnel out of a Persian Gulf full of American aircraft carriers and British frigates.
"Congress is holding up vital funds and resources for our troops on the front lines." If, strategically and tactically, things Congress does right now affect our front line material and ordinance situation in April, then we have far, far bigger problems with the way this war is being waged than I thought.
"If we leave now, all the lives lost and wounded and disrupted will have been in vain." Guilt, the last resort. Not one soldier who has died in the service has died in vain in any conflict, win, lose or draw. They proudly served a nation and were commanded by an office when they came into harms' way. Even if the folks who sent them there were wrong to do so, the fact that they went secures their place in the pantheon of American heroism, and no bumbling politician on either side can take that away.