Thursday, January 11, 2007

Real versus Symbolic

During today's Senate hearing in which Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice defended the Bush administration's plan to dump yet more Americans into Iraq, many Senators expressed their opposition. However, only Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) talked about forcing a withdrawl by use of the power of Congress to control the budget.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is talking about a resolution "expressing opposition" to the President's Iraq strategy. Republicans may filibuster the measure.

But even if they don't filibuster or aren't successful at blocking it, the Reid resolution actually does virtually nothing. We will continue to lose American troops in Iraq just as we are now, if it passes.

I'm not saying that there may not be times when a symbolic resolution makes sense, because there are. But in a case like what we see now, when the President's 'new' Iraq strategy has no more chance of success than any of his previous Iraq strategies, and the price for the delay will be paid in American lives, to push for only a symbolic resolution is morally indefensible. Even to many of the Senators who supported the initial Iraq war effort, it has become painfully clear that the Bush/Rumsfeld strategy was so bungled early on that we are now stuck in an intractable guerilla war which is not likely to be resolved via a clear military win. This guerilla war further overlays a civil war going on within Iraq. Essentially the President's strategy with the 'surge' is to 'shoot at both sides' in Baghdad, continuing to target Sunni insurgents but also going after the Shi'ite Mahdi militia. Such a strategy won't work any more than we have been successful at stopping Sunni insurgents during the time when we've just been going after them.

In such a situation, the American troop surge will primarily produce more casualties and not substantively make any difference in Iraq.

As such, a 'symbolic' resolution is a cowardly path to take. The Senate should step up and vote on a real resolution as should the house. True, the Republicans would most certainly filibuster it, but it's still better to lose pushing for a real change that has teeth, than to push for one with no teeth (which might still end up losing anyway).

Even some Republicans who supported the war (like Chuck Hagel) are now coming to the realization that this war can't be won and will require a negotiated, diplomatic solution (one reason for my support for Bill Richardson-- it's a straight up question of which Presidential candidate is the best diplomat because the next President will be tasked with negotiating our way out, so what we need is the strongest negotiator we can find).


shrimplate said...

Senator Reid's proposal may indeed by toothless, but I like the way it triangulates and marginalizes the Bush strategy.

On the one hand we'll have the Senate opposed, with polls also showing most Americans also opposed to the Bush McCain "surge." That leaves them way out on the end of a very long isosceles triangle, distant from the wishes of the people and their congressional representatives.

Even if Reid's protest does nothing immediately it will have at least further framed the president's policies as undemocratic.

Anonymous said...

I guess if your going to lose anyway you'd rather lose by putting up the real McCoy. It's always better to be damned for what you do than to be damned for what you don't.