Friday, May 25, 2007

The Iraq Funding Dilemna

Although it does not appear that the congressional democrats have acted in the noblest manner while this latest round of Iraq funding has been debated, they may actually be doing the right thing. The case for a democratic failure on this issue has been made by Glenn Greenwald on, Kos at, Keith Olbermann and others. However, it is important to remember that this debate is being negotiated with an incompetent party on the other side, namely President Bush.

The release of the pre-war CIA intelligence report today detailed the potential dangers of invading Iraq, which the Bush administraion summarily ignored. Criminal negligence? Perhaps, but also a big reminder of exactly who is "putting our troops in harms way". In fact, the report predicts much of the boodshed and difficulties we face in Iraq today. Therefore, the blame for the current situation rests with one side of this funding debate, President Bush, and the debate over funding is now occuring only because of his negiligence. With the President's incompetence in mind, this debate is not as simple as it appears.

With regard to the funding bill, granted, the dems have not taken the principled stand and fought Bush for every dollar of funding he has requested. I concede that in an ideal world, they should have done that. However, they are not operating in an ideal world. They are operating in a world where no one actually knows the best solution in Iraq and any withdrawal is going to require diplomatic finesse and strategic planning. Two areas you do not want delegated to President Bush.

An interesting position is the one taken by Congressman Andrews. Congressman Andrews (D-NJ) released a statement explaining why he voted yes on the funding bill yesterday. explains the tension felt by each democratic member in this vote, and why he chose the realpolitick approach of providing the funding. Principly the vote was intended to avoid the debate over "cutting off funding to the troops". As cliched as that argument has become, it is an enormous distraction that would require educating 50 percent of the American public, a task not possible in a short time frame. Representative Slaughter also provides a thorough explanation of the vote and why democrats could not, and should not, have blocked the bill.

Obviously, any thinking person knows that whatever happens to the troops is Bush's decision, and his alone. If the troops are stranded on a battlefield, that is Bush's decision. Congress will be more than happy to spend whatever it costs for a safe, or safe as possible, withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, the "cutting off funding" debate, althought totally irrelevant, will actually take the political pressure OFF the republican congresspersons who are needed for the veto-proof majority.

In addition, any withdrawal precipitated by a funding debate will not be well planned and organized, but rather, will be hapahazard and dangerous. Remember that a withdrawal, even if precipitated by Democratic resistance in congress, will be implemented by Bush. Will he be capable of formulating a wise and strategic withdrawl, without a veto-proof congressionally-designed withdrawal plan? Something to think about.

In contrast, if the dems provide the funding, as they have decided to do, and gaurantee a re-assessment of the situation in September, then the debate stays focused on the ground in Iraq. Support will build for a phased withdrawal and a veto-proof majority will likely coalesce around a sound withdrawal plan. I would much rather a withdrawal plan organized and thought through by Congress than one put together by a reluctant Bush because he doesn't have enough money to continue his reckless war.

My heart is with the democratic critics who are sickened by the thought of funding this war another day. However, the reality requires a more complex strategy than simply forcing a withdrawal as soon as possible. This is like negotiating with a demented bus driver, when you are on the bus, and he has control of the wheel. It may be wiser just to wait for him to run out of gas, rather than wrestle the wheel from him! Its easy to say simply cut off the funds, but if you actually had to vote and think about the realities associated with such a vote, you might want to come up with a better plan. Maybe I am wrong, but I see why this is a very difficult vote for democratic members of Congress trying to end this war in a responsible manner.


Anonymous said...

Hey philasurfer,

Glad to have you in the discussion and welcome your thoughtful opinion, but I adamantly disagree. It became the Democrats responsibility in November when the American public went in droves to the polls to change the course of this war. We did not go to the polls to get a minimum wage bill, although ancillary.

Imagine, however the dems decided to pass the minimum wage bill and then send it to Bush for his veto. that is playing politics. But, enough of playing politics with war.

And no one is talking about a withdrawal or immediate withdrawal as of yet (though I am supportive of such a notion). And of course no one disagrees this is Bush's war through and through, but the democrats cannot get off the hook anymore by saying I did not support this war (as Barack is trying to do). If you want to be an anti war democrat you must become one now.

What they did is not even compromise, except of course their decisionmaking skills. Continued funding will always be there for the troops that is a given...but to place Bush's feet to the fire and at the very least give us a time table for benchmarks (65% of the American people support) is not too much to ask. And if he could not agree to this - then cave in because you are afraid of how the argument will be framed in my view is playing politics with war, our troops and the Iraqi people.

As Senator Feingold said and I paraphrase, we may not think it is a big deal to compromise this (the time table) position until September, but it will likely cause the death of 1,000 U.S. troops.

And becoming tougher in September will never bring back lives.

philasurfer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
philasurfer said...

Hey Kid, Im glad you appreciate me posting on the other side of this debate. I wouldn't expect much agreemant on this position, but I felt the need to make it anyway.

I just think there are legitimate arguments on both sides of this, all of which are determined to end the war. Its more than just how the debate is framed. Its the actual reality of the debate.

A timetable was not an option. It would either not pass Congress or get vetoed by the President. A timetable was, shall we say, off the table. That leaves the only pure anti-war position to send no funding bill at all. Totally defund the war!

Totally defunding the war, by failing to send a supplmental, would leave the future entirely in Bush's hands. He would have a war with no money. God knows what he would do. Its scary to comtemplate his options. It may be irresponsible for democrats, at this point, to defund the war and leave the rest to Bush, knowing his incompetence and willingness to test the limits of the consitution. Instead they may be able to take control of the situation by building a veto-proof majority. I think they are both legitimate anti-war positions.

Anonymous said...

I agree they are both anti-war positions. But, here is my problem and has been my problem with democrats for years now. Why do they let Bush frame the argument? Make him compromise. If he doesn't compromise, send him another bill that is similar with benchmarks and time frames. So what if he won't sign it. That would be the position of the majority of the people.

We cannot have an endless war. There is no goal and "winning" is not defined. We are occupying Iraq and Bush (despite his 28 - 30% approval) frames the debate. Why is that? They hold the purse strings.

I think if they stood strong they could have made him compromise, but this is not a compromise this is another blank check. And I seriously doubt a majority for time frames is in our future. They will spin this - "the surge is working!!!"

I am sure you have seen the surge is not 21,000 troops, but instead 50,000. They will continue to win this argument until the dems stand strong.

philasurfer said...

I think this debate is taking place all over the blogosphere.
( see

We definately agree on the goal, its the means that are up for debate. I actually agree with everything you are saying. It is an idealistic approach to continue to send legislation to Bush, which he will veto over and over again. I am not saying I would not have supported that effort, although I would have been unsure where that would have led.

Then there is the politically realist approach, which eventually won out, and which is where we are now. The goal now should be to focus this energy on something I know we both agree on, ending the war.

We need to put more and more pressure on republicans in the Congress. We need to continue to make the case that, like you said, this war needs to end. Sixteen more votes in the Senate and this war is over on our terms. Control is effectively taken away from Bush. That should be the goal now.

philasurfer said...

This is a better summary of this positon than I can make:

Anonymous said...

Hey philasurfer,

looks like it was just you and me. But, I totally get where you are coming from...I just can't take the capitulation anymore. I just posted a John Stewart video that is pretty funny that kind of shows my side of the debate. Happy Memorial Day. And enjoy the roof deck.