Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Democrats in a Quagmire

CNN has an interesting article on their website entitled Democrats struggle with next step on Iraq. After passing a non-binding resolution in the House, and working the following weekend in the Senate without passing the resolution, the Democrats seem to be a little confused on how to proceed.

This week, Rep Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania began discussing legislation he would like to use to prevent any reinforcements from going to Iraq. He has said he will tie readiness requirements to funding bills for troop deployments. At face value this might not be a bad idea. Murtha would put requirements on how much training, equipment, and time away from Iraq any particular unit needed before it could be deployed to Iraq. Murtha has said the limits he has sent are unachievable, and would prevent any troops from being deployed to Iraq. Murtha’s message would be loud and clear: Troops, you are on your own.

However, the Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are unsure how they want to proceed. Speaker Pelosi has been non-committal on Murtha’s proposal, but is quoted in the AP article as saying, “Let me be very clear: Congress will fund our troops.” Senate Majority Leader Reid wishes to table the discussion on Iraq entirely. He plans on taking up debate on the 9/11 commission. Discussing when the Senate might pick up the debate on Iraq, Reid said, “Iraq is going to be there – it’s just a question of when we get back to it.” The article also quotes him as saying it would be days and not weeks before the Senate came back to the issue. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) stated that he understood there were some that thought the Senate should continue the debate on Iraq. However, both Durbin and Reid think they can implement all of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations quickly. Because of the emotional nature of some of the recommendations, and the fact that they haven’t been implemented yet, it might take some time before the Senate could agree on what recommendations to implement.

The article illustrates that the Democratic leadership is confused and unsure when it comes to the Iraq debate. The Senate is moving on to other things. Pelosi and Reid seem to be on different pages on what to do next. All of this illustrates one point: The Founding Fathers were right to give power to carry out a war to the Commander in Chief and not to the Congress. If the Congress can’t even make up its collective minds on how to proceed with the debate, how are they possibly going to manage a war requiring quick decisions? Reid and Pelosi may want to direct how we proceed in Iraq, but the Constitution says only Bush gets to make that decision. I think the way Congress has acted over the last few weeks illustrates why the Constitution decided one person could make decisions quicker than a collection of hundreds.


Epiphany11 said...

As I'm sure you've gathered by now, Andy, I'm more Liberal than Conservative. That said, I can't understand how anyone could consider the current state of limbo w/regard to Iraq beneficial to our country or the troops. I'm already worried sick about them for when they do return home - those who are blessed enough to do so. If we are going to send more troops regardless, based on the President's decision, how is it beneficial to drag our feet at any level? I feel like we're just leaving the troops hanging, and it breaks my heart every day.

familyman said...

Hey Andy,

The Constitution does indeed stipulate that the President is to be the Commander in Chief of our armed forces, but it does not give him sole authority over every aspect of our military's actions during war-time. As Commander in Chief he has the final say in battle field decisions.

But, the Constitution also gives Congress some war-time powers. Even in times of war there is some level of checks and balances.

Article 1 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, appropriate dollars to raise and support armies, and the power "To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces".

So while the President has every right to conduct the war how he sees fit, the Congress has just as much right to determine whether or not we should even be there.

Chastising the congress for taking some time to decide their next steps is OK if you did the same thing to the President back when he went into "listening mode" after receiving the Iraq Study Group Report.

Remember? The report was released on December 6. And with the dire assessments of the report in hand, Bush leapt into action and told us that no decision would be announced until after Christmas. Probably not until after New Year's Day. Then on Jan 10th he finally gave the speech in which he announced his decision to send more troops. Not exactly quick decision making on the president's part.

And let's not kid ourselves, the President is hardly making these decisions by himself. He's simply the public face of the decision.

Andy D said...

I don’t think the state of limbo is very good for our troops either. I would like our troops to know that if the Commander in Chief says 21,000 more troops are on the way, then 21,000 troops are on the way and Congress won’t try to pull the rug out from under them.

Congress does have some powers. Those powers are intended to prevent the President from committing our country to a war without the council and consent of the Congress. Congress does have funding powers. However, the President needs to have the flexibility to send the troops he needs to the parts of the country he needs without getting caught up in red tape from Congress. In this case, Congress is trying to prevent the President from even sending troops. Unless they figure out a way to repeal their previous resolution, I am not sure they have the power to dictate what troops can go where. I was trying to illustrate how hard it is to get Congress to even agree to have a debate, let alone decide how the war should be fought.

As far as the President announcing a new way forward during January, I also wish he had made the announcement quicker. However, previous presidents have also delayed changing tactics and strategy until the right political moment. Lincoln waited to announce a major wartime decision until the Union had a victory. He didn’t know if that victory would come in days, weeks, or months, but he felt he needed the victory of his army to help shore up support for his new policy. History will decide if Bush announced at the right time or too late to matter.