Responding to the Bush Iraq Plan

January 12th, 2007

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Well, after watching the President on Wednesday night, I think we all feel a LOT better about Iraq!

Uh, yeah. Would that it were so.

This latest in a long line of Bush “plans for victory” (there have been six or so, depending on how you count) is, of course, unwise on its face. Even those who believe the only way to succeed in Iraq is to escalate our troop numbers think we’d need a lot more than 21,000 troops, and they’d need to deploy for a lot longer than the Bush team has been saying they’re going for.

What then, are war opponents in Congress to do?

First, we believe it’s imperative that they keep their eyes on the ball – the goal is not scoring political points (either as partisans or presidential aspirants), it is finding the best way forward for America, the region, and Iraq.

Second, we think they should shift the debate away for the details of managing the war and back to the fundamental question implicitly raised by the election results in November: how, exactly, is Mr. Bush going to end America’s involvement in this miserable war?

So while we’d support a nonbinding resolution condemning the escalation, the question is what to do next. We do not think it would be wise to cut off funding for the troop increase. The appropriations process is too blunt an instrument to use in an attempt to manage a war.

Rather than quibble with the number of troops over there, war opponents (of both parties) should attach a rider to the appropriations bill that makes the additional funds contingent on a plan to end combat operations within a certain time frame. The time frame could be definite (begin to withdrawal troops by March 1, 2008 and cease combat operations by September 30, 2008) or general (the President will outline the dates). This would give the President 12 months or 20 months to succeed or fail with their new plan. After that, their next plan would have to rely on a significant troop reduction, the end of day-to-day combat operations, diplomacy, etc.

It’s time to move the Iraq debate away from the Bush terrain – arguing over tactics – and onto the subject for which Americans want answers: when are the troops coming home?

We hope you’ll take a look at our short memo laying out our views on this.