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At War with Ourselves
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 7/20/07

The debate over the White House assessment of the Iraqi government’s progress in meeting benchmarks set by the U.S. government was a classic case of arguing over whether the cup was half full or half empty. The White House judged that satisfactory progress had been made on eight of the eighteen items including four having to do with security. Unsatisfactory progress was assessed for six benchmarks, four of which pertained to security. Two were judged unsatisfactory but with a glimmer of progress. The remaining two were not assessed because of insufficient time for evaluation.

Some Republicans, including Sen. John Warner (R,Va), who called progress disappointing, and Richard Lugar (R,Ind.), are calling for a change of policy in Iraq. Given that ten of the eighteen benchmarks dealt with the key issue of security and satisfactory progress was assessed for only three of them, it is easy to react with disappointment but it is premature to do so. The surge, after all, has just begun and security is mostly what the surge is about.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Critics of the war accused the White House of overstating progress. Overstating? By the White House’s own assessment, progress on half the benchmarks was less than satisfactory. It wasn’t exactly a great report card. Meanwhile, by a 223-201 vote almost entirely along party lines, the House voted to require that the U.S. withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by April 1, less than nine months from now. It was largely symbolic which is what Congress is best at. Only four Republicans broke ranks, indicating insufficient support to override a presidential veto.

Nevertheless, it was a slap in the face to the wartime commander-in-chief, to the troops fighting this ugly war and to those of them who have sacrificed life and limb. It is a huge source of comfort to our enemy who believed all along that Americans would lack the stomach for a protracted battle. It is also the very height of irony. Our troops are at war with a real enemy while Congress is at war with the president.

`Disagreement over the war or its conduct is understandable but the current state of animosity between Democrats and the Bush Administration is way over the top. It is polarizing Americans and reducing the effectiveness of government. Congress is clearly usurping presidential authority regarding the conduct of war and is using every means at its disposal to attack the president for selfish political gain. In doing so it is not only harming the country, it is neglecting its legislative duties. It will soon recess for the summer with little to show for itself in the way of legislative accomplishments.

Americans are deeply divided over many issues but support of a wartime president with troops engaged in combat should not be one of them. However one’s views may have hardened toward the war in Iraq, we have made a major military commitment there at great cost in lives and treasure and we need to pursue a favorable outcome so long as our military commanders believe one to be reasonably attainable. Such an outcome is decidedly not achieved by informing our enemies that we intend to quit and will be out of Iraq by April Fool’s Day. That would be regarded as a massive defeat for the world’s only superpower and its best defense against radical Islamic terrorism. It would throw the area into chaos, result in a bloodbath and embolden terrorists everywhere. Moreover, it would create a logistical nightmare for the military and would imperil our troops. How would you like to be among the last few thousand to leave? How do you ask them to risk their lives for a cause we intend to walk away from?

What gives these armchair generals in Congress, a Congress, by the way, that has less popular support than the president, the notion that they are competent to override the collective judgment of our senior military leaders and attempt to manage a complex war in committee fashion? Where did they obtain their military expertise? From those brief boondoggles to Iraq to be photographed shaking hands with the troops they are now intent on undercutting?

This is a Congress evidently less concerned with the national interests than with attacking George W. Bush on every possible front. It is one thing to challenge him on executive powers, appointments, wire tapping and privacy issues or presidential pardons. It is quite another thing to try to usurp his authority as commander-in-chief with the exclusive responsibility under the constitution for the conduct of war and to do so for largely political reasons. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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