Despite the fact that Speaker Pelosi has made it very clear that Representative Murtha’s slow bleed the troops plan is a non starter, the Pennsylvania Congressman is evidently determined to bring the issue to the floor for a vote. And at least one influential Democrat is hoping he does:
He described his plan to the Democratic Caucus two weeks ago and again more recently on MoveCongress.org last week.
No sooner was the interview aired than Middle East hawks that have been cheerleading this war from its inception (the White House, FOX News and the myriad of entertainers who make up the Republican right-wing noise machine) started licking their chops at the prospect of exposing the Democrats as cut and run peaceniks that don’t support our troops.
They suggest that efforts such as giving our troops 1) mandatory home base time with their families between deployments—365 days for the Army and 270 days for the Marines 2) sufficient training and equipment and 3) mandatory face to face physical, mental and emotional health evaluations upon their return from combat—a standard practice before this Administration came to power—will demoralize our soldiers and turn the Middle East into a cauldron of blood and chaos.
First, an obvious disclaimer: Representative Jim Moran (D-Anti-Semite) is absolutely, positively, and without qualification not related to me in any way, shape, or form. I would hazard a guess and say that our genes diverged millions of years ago – his branch of the Morans ending up evolving with the slugs and slimy things in prehistoric swamps only to emerge quite recently to slither around the halls of Congress. The true and noble branch of the Moran family stayed in the trees and ate nuts and fruit, learning how to walk upright only recently because, obviously, we were waiting for the invention of the automobile. No sense in walking when you can grab a ride, right?
At any rate, Mr. Moran has it all wrong. There are precious few of us who would not vouchsafe our military people sufficient rest, time with their families, health screening, and adequate training so that they can continue to perform in such spectacularly competent fashion in Iraq.
And there certainly is not a monolithic response on the right to Mr. Murtha’s plan. Oak Leaf at Polipundit:
Having 12 months between deployments, ensuring that soldiers are trained to military (not Democrat/Republican) standards and returning stop loss to an emergency measure not a routine personal policy is good for readiness, good for the troops and good for the Nation.
If you believe in the Global War on Terror, you will support these reasonable common sense measures and let the military (not politicians) set readiness and training standards.
Not only being the â€œright thingâ€ it is good politics in the long run.
I, and most others on the right would normally agree with these benchmarks. However, despite what has gone on in the past with deployments, this time around, the stakes are far from normal. We are, in fact, in what I think most people agree – both right and left – is the political crisis of the war.
I say this because it is painfully obvious that regardless of how the present surge strategy plays out, this will be the last opportunity for the Administration to succeed in tamping down the violence in Baghdad (and Anbar province) while giving the Iraqi government some desperately needed political capitol to effect changes in society that will give the Sunnis hope for the future.
The oil revenue sharing plan recently agreed to is an excellent first step – a small one to be sure – but hugely significant. It is the first time the Iraqi government has officially recognized the Sunnis in a positive way. All other recognition of the Sunnis in the Constitution were related to strictures against the Baathists. There have also been some petty local laws that have made the Sunnis feel like outsiders in their own country. This is what has been driving the insurgency; Sunnis believing they have no choice but to die or be herded out of Iraq as refugees or fight the government and the foreign troops that enable their oppressors to survive. As long as the Maliki government can make steady progress on other fronts, the surge will have fulfilled its purpose.
But beyond the surge is the almost dead certainty that we will begin drawing down our forces probably no later than the end of this year and at the latest by the Spring of 2008 regardless of whether the surge works or not. There is no political will in Congress even from Republicans to maintain troop levels beyond that date. There will be no precipitous withdrawal. But neither will there be the desire in Congress – especially by Republicans – for the war to continue at its present level.
There will be “redeployments” and troop rotations back home. Those troops will be replaced by Iraqi troops and police who evidently are benefiting enormously from living with Americans in the neighborhoods where they patrol together, especially the latter.
All of this is in the future. The present situation is an acknowledged crisis and extreme measures are called for – even beyond what has occurred in the past with redeployments. To make a crude analogy, suppose instead of redeploying from the States to Iraq, we were talking about redeploying Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge.
Patton’s army was facing east and fighting a pitched battle against the Germans on December 19th when Eisenhower asked the General how long it would take to pull his troops out of the line and march them north to hit the Germans in the flank as they moved farther into the salient or “bulge” made by their rapid advance. Eisenhower, not knowing that Patton had already made plans for such a turn to the north, was surprised when Patton told him that it would take only 48 hours.
The move itself would have the effect of “relieving” Bastogne where the 101st Airborne was hanging on grimly, surrounded as they were by the German army. But, despite the inference made by Patton boosters and popular culture, his move north was not intended to specifically “relieve” anyone. It was an offensive operation aimed at destroying the German army who had finally come into the open. The relief of Bastogne would be a consequence of successful operations carried out against the enemy.
Patton had not only planned the move in advance of his meeting with Ike, he actually started his troops moving before he left for the conference. Thus, 72 hours later, Patton’s Third Army was facing the spearhead of the German attack after pulling his troops out of one fight in south central France, turning them 90 degrees, and marching them more than 150 miles to the north in order to engage the enemy in another battle. It was a truly remarkable achievement in logistics and support not to mention a demonstration of the strength and stamina of the American GI.
Now a careful commander may not have pushed his troops so far so fast. And he almost certainly wouldn’t have engaged the enemy without giving his troops a little rest and a chance to eat a hot meal in the bitter cold. But Patton correctly saw the opportunity to crush the German army and he pushed his exhausted troops into the fight immediately. And despite what I am sure could be defined as severely degraded readiness and efficiency within the ranks of the Third Army, those Americans went into battle because of the enormous opportunity the Germans presented the allies by coming out from behind their defensive positions and going on the offensive.
As I said, a crude analogy but I hope my point is understood. There are times when the die must be cast and the risks taken. This is one of those times. The opportunity we have in Iraq will not come again. And while no one is expecting miracles, there is every hope that the situation can improve dramatically enough so that the Iraqi government can begin to exercise more control over their own capitol while taking the steps necessary to bring the factions together and start the long process toward reconciliation and peace.
I daresay many in the military probably feel as Oak Leaf does and I wouldn’t blame them one bit. But at the same time, you can’t shut the political realities off any more than you can forget the sacrifices of the families and troops who are now bearing the brunt of our past failures and mistakes in Iraq by being forced once again to deploy with less time off and less training than they need or the military may desire.
This, for all practical purposes, is it. Time to realize it and act accordingly.