Jay Reding.com

Blowing Smoke, But Not Taking The Heat

Lynn Chu and John Yoo examine why Congress is bothering with meaningless resolutions on Iraq when they could just cut funding. After all, if the heated rhetoric about Iraq is true: that it’s a waste of American lives, that it’s making us more vulnerable to terror, that it’s causing America to lose trust across the whole world, isn’t it logical that Congress should do more than make some purely symbolic gesture?

A pullout, however, would have no chance of success, because its supporters are likely to lack the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential veto. But to stop President Bush’s proposed troop surge, Congress doesn’t have to do anything. It can just sit back and fail to enact the periodic supplemental spending measures required to keep the war going. Congress has wielded considerable power by just threatening such measures, as with President James K. Polk in the Mexican-American War and President Ronald Reagan in Lebanon after the 1983 barracks bombing.

The Constitution doesn’t pick winners. It leaves it to the three branches to use their unique powers to struggle for supremacy. James Madison, the leading intellectual force behind the Constitution, rebutted Patrick Henry’s firebrand attack on executive war powers during the Virginia ratifying convention by reminding him that Congress could control any renegade president by stopping the flow of money.

But with power comes responsibility. The truth is that this Congress is not sure what to do in Iraq. Its hesitation reflects America’s uncertainty and divisions. Antiwar bluster is high at the moment, echoing popular frustration and grim news from Baghdad.

What this gets at is that opposition to the war in Iraq is basically spineless: Congress won’t pull funding in that way. They’ll threaten to do so, but if they actually did they’d have to live with the consequences of their actions. For all the talk about how Iraq is “unwinnable” and that we must pull out now, Congress has no intention of making that happen despite having every opportunity to make the war fiscally untenable.

It’s all about posing: opposition to the war in Iraq is politically beneficial, so spineless politicians are sticking their fingers into the wind and trying to determine what’s popular, not what’s right.

Meanwhile, John McCain, who deserves the title of America’s bravest legislator, is sticking to his political guns despite the fact that it’s probably hurting his political future. Then again, it’s been apparent for some time that despite Senator McCain’s faults, courage of conviction has never been one of them. It’s quite fair to say that the Senator has more courage in his pinky than 90% of his Congressional colleagues.

If Congress really believed their own rhetoric, they’d act on it. But behind all the bluster is the realization that the US would be inviting genocide by leaving Iraq. Such a rash and foolish action would create a nexus of terrorism in the Middle East that would rapidly destabilize the surrounding regions. Leaving Iraq brings with it an unacceptably high risk of sparking a war on an unprecedented scale. It would ensure that the widening Sunni/Shi’ite chasm would spark a civil war across the Middle East as Iranian and Syrian interests start proxy wars in other states. The idea of an Iranian force backed with nuclear weapons occupying the Iraqi and Saudi oil fields and holding them hostage is a nightmare scenario for the entire world — and the chances of something like that happening grow massively without a strong US presence in the region. Pulling back to the “periphery” won’t be enough to prevent that from happening. The US must take an active approach in the region.

Chu and Yoo make a valuable point:

The truth is that the Democrats in Congress would rather sit back and let the president take the heat in war than do anything risky. That way they get to prepare for the next election while pointing fingers of blame and spinning conspiracy theories. It is odd to see the Democratic Party turning toward isolationism, bonding with paleoconservatives, and so bitterly averse to the ideals of democratic nation building.

War is not about instant gratification in a hail of klieg lights, our truncated Gulf war notwithstanding. In an interdependent, globalized world, we can’t shrug our shoulders and shirk in the war on terrorism. America made a fundamental change in foreign policy after the 9/11 attacks: to support and spread democracy. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, should understand this well. She made her national reputation as a junior representative in the 1980s criticizing the Chinese dictatorship after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Democratic Party, in the name of political expediency, has slaughtered it’s own values. Promoting democracy? We’re now told it’s a futile effort. Supporting the rights of mankind? Not in Iraq, apparently. It’s now assumed that the Iraqi people are damned to sectarian warfare. The Democratic Party has become the party of isolationism, joining with the atavistic Right in demanding America withdraw from Iraq. What do the Democrats stand for these days? Surrender, defeat, and humiliation. The American people may have soured on this war, but that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to see America brought down in the way the Democrats would have it.

This is all about political posturing, and few seem to care that the consequences of such posturing is emboldening al-Qaeda. They speak of victory in Iraq — yet we can’t. It doesn’t matter what the motivations of the anti-war side really are. What that are doing is making this war more difficult and emboldening our enemy — and that costs us more blood, American, coalition, and Iraqi. It is a shameful cowardice, and it sacrifices our troops on the altar of political expediency.