Choosing Failure

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently approved a resolution, 12-9, in a largely party-line vote, to oppose President George Bush’s plan to surge the troops in Iraq. The goal of the troop surge is to bring greater security to Iraq. Much of the resolution’s text is non-controversial. It calls for the eventual transfer of security responsibility to Iraqi forces. This is certainly the ultimate goal of the Administration. Further, no one can reasonably oppose the assertion that leads off the resolution that “maximizing chances of success in Iraq should be our goal.”

The Senate and Congress also have a positive responsibility to hold hearings and evaluate the President’s foreign policy. They can even responsibly conclude that the President’s policy is unwise. They could even decide that it is so unwise that they cut off funds. While they could not use legislative power to micromanage troop deployments, they certainly could cut funds for the Iraq War by a date certain.

In Congressional hearings and in public statements members of the Senate and Congress can advocate whatever policy they consider the most prudent. For example, contrary to her current position, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while minority leader in 2004 urged more troops for Iraq.

However, a non-binding resolution officially rebuking the President’s decision is irresponsible. This resolution, if passed by the full Senate, merely undermines the troops in the field. Certainly, Al Qaeda and insurgents in Iraq view the resolution as a victory. By its nature, the resolution makes the successful execution of the troop surge less likely and endangers lives and violates the stated goal of the resolution of “maximizing chances of success.”

To appreciate the fact that this Senate action is pure political posturing of the most cynical kind, one only has to notice that the Senate followed dismissal of the President’s policy in committee with the confirmation of General David Patraeous by a whopping 81-0 vote in the full Senate. General Patraeous is not only tasked to carry out the President’s surge policy, he is an important architect of it. Voting against the surge and for Patraeous is measure of how unserious most of the Senate is.

As rash as the anti-surge resolution is, the most terribly disheartening recent news is the Fox News Poll that asked Americans whether they wanted the President’s surge policy to succeed. The question was not whether they expected the policy to succeed, but whether “you want the plan President Bush announced last week to succeed.”  Among Democrats 51% wanted the plan to succeed (the loyal opposition), 34% did not, and 15% were not sure they wanted the plan to succeed.

Let’s be generous and assume that the 15% listed as “don’t know” were confused by the question. Let us further assume that nearly half of the Democrats who said they did not want the plan to succeed accidentally selected the wrong response. Thus, by conservative estimate the percentage of Democrats who do not want the President’s plan to succeed is 20%.

If the President’s plan does not succeed it means the American military would suffer more casualties than it otherwise would. It would mean that many more innocent Iraqi citizens would die. Any even 36% of Democrats in the same poll conceded that if the plan fails, terrorists would be “encouraged to attack the United States again.”

A cynic could confidently conclude that one-in-five Democrats hate the President (or perhaps the country) so deeply and profoundly they would prefer all these negative consequences to Bush succeeding. It would be convenient if Democrats would refrain from providing evidence that nurtures such cynicism.

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