Was Murtha Wrong?
Rep. John Murtha's proposal was the political center of gravity last week and over the weekend. The end result was too much grandstanding and not any solutions. Yes, Rep Schmidt we understand that “cowards cut and run”, but it also takes moral bravery to tackle the tough issue of Iraq.
Fred Kaplan at Slate has actually read Murtha’s proposal and has an excellent roundup. He concludes:
So, the pertinent question becomes: What is the best way for redeploying? In other words, by what timetable (whether one is explicitly announced or not), after what political and military actions? How many U.S. troops should be left behind, and what should they be doing? Where should the others be redeployed, and under what circumstances will they move back into Iraq? Do we have any realistic strategic goals left in this war (one big problem in this whole fiasco is that the Bush administration never had any from the outset), and how do we accomplish them?
There's a very serious debate to be conducted in this country—not only about the future of our involvement with Iraq, but also about the use of force, the response to threats, the war on terror, the shape of the Middle East. John Murtha's proposal leaves open a lot of questions, but—seen for what it really says, not for how it's been portrayed—it's a start.
Kaplan also points to a study by the Center for American Progress that I am currently reading, and Bobby over at Bobby’s World has a good post on the issue.
So was Murtha wrong? Yes and no. The administration has argued against setting dates and timelines, but today, Iraqi leaders publicly called for a pullout timetable. Are they cutting and running?
And I have never understood why we haven’t set dates for certain milestones. We should set a date for when we are going to get power production back to pre-war levels. Deadlines drive results. As it stands, Iraq is too open ended without any way for the American public to measure progress.
I also see some truth to the idea that the very presence of American troops in Iraq is driving much of the violence. At some point, we become a burden to Iraqi peace and stability. If we truly are acting as regional terrorist “flypaper”, then it’s the Iraqis who are bearing much of that burden.
But, what bothers me the most about this “debate” is that Congress appears not to be living up to its end of the bargain. From the WAPO:
The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.
So basically they voted to send me to war based on “faulty intelligence” that they couldn’t be bothered to read. And now they are deciding the collective fates of millions of Iraqis and thousand of soldiers without any real debate or discussion of the issue.
Here’s what I’d like to see from our law-makers:
Do you think there is any chance at all of this happening?
But, I think Murtha was on to something with his ideas about a quick reaction force in the area. There are many ways in which we can support Iraq with a reduced footprint on the ground.
So what should we do? I have never been an advocate of cutting and running in Iraq. We’ve sacrificed too much to just leave. Plus, we owe the Iraqis and the greater Middle East a shot at stability. To some, failure is a foregone conclusion. I disagree, but I’d like to see more serious discussion from our political leadership as to how we succeed.
What’s troubling about Iraq is where I think we’re going to end up without a major shift in policy. We’ll have an Iraqi government whose continued viability is in question. Iraq will still be plagued by sectarian violence with Saddam’s brutality replaced by Zarqawi’s fanaticism. We’ll have a continued large scale military presence in the Middle East. Our troops will continue to be targets for Khobar Towers style attacks while also fueling the animosity that drives extremist recruiting. The Iraq intervention will not have solved the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, another roadblock to regional stability. In other words, its looks like we’re going to finish almost exactly where we started.