The House of Representatives’ resolution against sending more troops to Iraq has no force of law, the news stories keep telling us, while not telling us a simultaneous truth: that the resolution also lacks force of intellect or understanding, force of political courage and force of doing what’s right for the United States of America.
The falsity of this measure backed by all but two of the House’s Democrats and 17 of its Republicans begins with a gross mischaracterization of sending 21,500 additional military personnel primarily to Baghdad as an "escalation" of the conflict. In fact, the so-called surge wouldn’t bring the troop force level as high as the 160,000 buildup for the Iraqi elections. We’re at 132,000 troops. The addition would take us to 153,500.
If the objective were to marshal an overwhelming, war-escalating troop increase to crush an enemy that wages its criminality chiefly with suicide bombings on city streets, the military would need what it clearly cannot supply — at least another 100,000 troops, more likely three times that many.
The objective happens to be something far more realistic — a tactical maneuver to render Baghdad safe enough for the Iraqi government to survive and thrive without our long-term, direct assistance. To get there requires reinforcements.
That’s what Lt. Gen. David Petraeus tried to explain last month during a Senate hearing on his confirmation as the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. The idea is for a beefed-up and therefore less-vulnerable American force to join with thousands of additional Iraqi soldiers and police over some months to oust enemy killers. The city could then be restored to some semblance of secure inhabitability, enabling our soldiers to move to its outskirts.
Petraeus is considered one of the best things the Pentagon has going for it, a highly experienced, ultra-smart military planner and combat leader. You might suppose senators at the hearing would have peppered him with questions so as to better grasp his thinking. Nothing doing. The hearing became an occasion for senatorial spouting in the service of political purpose instead of legislative probing in the service of intelligent decisions.
Hillary Rodham Clinton used her allotted time to give a speech. Why learn anything? Why tend to your duties as a senator? There are bigger things than that, such as a house on Pennsylvania Avenue that is forever beckoning the ambitious, almost as if it had a voice. "Come live here again, Hillary," it seems to say. "Come to me."
Clinton has now urged a troop withdrawal to begin within 90 days, a polls-propelled, let’s-surrender position, though little worse than the gimmicky House resolution, the Senate Democrats’ talk of reshaping the Iraqi mission, partisan plotting to restrict war funding or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s squawking that President Bush had better not get overly aggressive about Iran’s supplying terrorists with weapons used to murder our soldiers.
None of this is to say the Baghdad tactic is assured of success, that nothing more would be required for victory or that anything ahead will be easy. At his hearing, General Petraeus conceded the difficulties, adding, nevertheless, "Hard is not hopeless."
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com