S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Skeptics in Congress Push Benchmarks

Public opinion polls measure how we feel about current events. Most Americans think we are on the wrong track with the war in Iraq. In his State of the Union speech tonight, the President is poised to try to convince us otherwise, but it will not work. It does not even work with several members of his own party in Congress.
Skeptical Senators speak out - Two very well-respected Republican Senators, in an amazing move, have taken the measure of the plan for "surging" troops proposed by our current president (OCP) and believe it will fall far short. About the so-called surge plan, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said yesterday, "I don't think this will work."
Senator John Warner also disagrees with the surge plan and recommends strong congressional oversight of the war. He is proposing setting benchmarks for both the Bush and Maliki administrations regarding next steps in the war. "We want to see deeds; we want to see actions."
Senator Ben Nelson joined the two Republicans, making it a bipartisan effort. This resolution is in opposition to another bipartisan effort, that of Senators Hagel, Biden and Levin.
Five Republicans now publicly oppose the plan of OCP. Demetri Sevastopulo writing for Financial Times headlines, "GOP delivers new blow on troop surge" (1/22/07). To quote from the story,
George W. Bush’s efforts to shore up support for his military surge in Iraq suffered another blow on Monday when a senior Republican senator came out against the controversial plan.
John Warner, the former navy secretary and until last month chairman of the armed services committee, said he would introduce a resolution opposing the sending of 21,500 more US troops to Iraq. The resolution was also backed by two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Norm Coleman, and by Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat.
. . . The intensified opposition to the surge came the day before General David Petraeus, the incoming US commander in Iraq, was to face tough questions on Capitol Hill on whether Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, would live up to his promise to crack down on sectarian militias.
. . . Also, the lack of benchmarks makes it difficult to gauge whether Mr Maliki genuinely wants to neutralise militias.

Surge! Everybody on to Baghdad. If the plan to raise the number of troops in Iraq is not stopped, General David Petraeus will be deploying all of those 21,000+ troops within the Baghdad area. But even that number may not measure up, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune that questions the metrics of the proposal. To quote,
When Lieutenant General David Petraeus assumes his duties as the new U.S. commander in Iraq, he will be guided by a new military doctrine on counterinsurgency that makes the security of the population a chief objective.
But a pressing question that is likely to emerge when the U.S. Senate takes up his confirmation next week is whether the administration's new Iraq strategy will draw on enough forces to assure security, as measured against the general's own guidelines.
The additional five combat brigades that would be sent to Baghdad under President George W. Bush's strategy would roughly double the size of the U.S. force involved in the security operation there, about 15,000 troops. But as a whole, that would still represent only a small portion of the 120,000-strong force that would be required to secure the entire capital according to the force ratios outlined in the military's new field manual for counterinsurgency, which Petraeus helped to draft.

Skepticism is justified. The reality on the ground in Iraq is that civil war is escalating rapidly. The theory of OCP that we should "do the surge and then see if it works" is incredibly flawed thinking. It utterly dismisses the value of lives lost with an experiment. It is not a strategy; it is a tactic; it is not a plan. Any decent plan has benchmarks to measure its success. You cannot in good conscience, use casualty numbers as benchmarks. The BBC News headlined, "Scores killed in Iraq bloodshed." To quote from the story,
More than 130 people were killed in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on the country's bloodiest day this year.

Violence in Iraq is out of control. Unfortunately, the length of time the war has been going on, the numbers of killed and wounded, and the high disapproval numbers in the polls may not make any difference at all. Only Congress can make a difference. As a co-equal branch of government, Congress has the power to measure the performance of the executive and hold OCP accountable in several ways. Another version from Financial Times is headlined, "Car bombs blast Baghdad, killing 65." To quote,
Two car bombs ripped through a busy commercial area of central Baghdad on Monday, killing 65 people and wounding 110, the Interior Ministry said.
. . . Monday’s blasts came after a particularly bloody weekend for U.S. forces in Iraq. Twenty-seven servicemen were killed in a helicopter crash, clashes with militants and roadside bombs. All but two were killed on Saturday, the third deadliest day for U.S. troops since the war started in March 2003.
The Congress is beginning to take bipartisan steps to measure the current administration's foreign policy progress and somehow hold OCP accountable. This striking development is quite different from 2006, and quite welcome!
Previous posts at South by Southwest:
Technorati tags:


betmo said...

i didn't watch- did you? from what i could tell- he pulled out some tired retreads and tried to jazz them up in order to tread water until his term is up.

Carol Gee said...

betmo, I had not yet finished my today's post about the SOTU (above). I did watch just to see the drama of Dems' reactions (polite and restrained) and Speaker Pelosi's beaming face in the background. I am a sucker for historical moments. OCP does seem curiously detached these days, perhaps a "zoning out" stress reaction. You are probably right about treading water. Thanks for your comment!