The Los Angeles Times has a very clear-headed editorial on Congressional attempts to micromanage the war are a violation of the principle of separation of powers:
It was one thing for the House to pass a nonbinding vote of disapproval. It’s quite another for it to set out a detailed timetable with specific benchmarks and conditions for the continuation of the conflict. Imagine if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced to adhere to a congressional war plan in scheduling the Normandy landings or if, in 1863, President Lincoln had been forced by Congress to conclude the Civil War the following year. This is the worst kind of congressional meddling in military strategy.
This is not to say that Congress has no constitutional leverage — only that it should exercise it responsibly. In a sense, both Bush and the more ardent opponents of the war are right. If a majority in Congress truly believes that the war is not in the national interest, then lawmakers should have the courage of their convictions and vote to stop funding U.S. involvement. They could cut the final checks in six months or so to give Bush time to manage the withdrawal. Or lawmakers could, as some Senate Democrats are proposing, revoke the authority that Congress gave Bush in 2002 to use force against Iraq.
But if Congress accepts Bush’s argument that there is still hope, however faint, that the U.S. military can be effective in quelling the sectarian violence, that U.S. economic aid can yet bring about an improvement in Iraqi lives that won’t be bombed away and that American diplomatic power can be harnessed to pressure Shiites and Sunnis to make peace — if Congress accepts this, then lawmakers have a duty to let the president try this “surge and leverage” strategy.
By interfering with the discretion of the commander in chief and military leaders in order to fulfill domestic political needs, Congress undermines whatever prospects remain of a successful outcome. It’s absurd for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to try to micromanage the conflict, and the evolution of Iraqi society, with arbitrary timetables and benchmarks.
The Constitution does not give Congress the right to micromanage our troops — that is a function of the President who is vested with the executive power and made Commander in Chief of the nation’s military. Congress can certainly de-fund the war any time they like, that is their constitutional prerogative, but they can’t try to play armchair general and manipulate the US military.
What the Democrats are trying to do is force a defeat in Iraq so that they don’t have to take the political heat of actually ending the war themselves. If they can attach so many provisions and strings to funding that the war cannot continue, they can try to end the conflict without actually voting to de-fund it.
For one, as the LA Times notes, that’s not within their constitutional powers, and there’s no way that the Congress would be able to override the inevitable Presidential veto. Secondly, it should give the left pause that they have the very same goals in Iraq as al-Qaeda — force a precipitous US withdrawal. It is the height of willful ignorance to argue that Iraq would not become a petri-dish for terrorism long into the future if the US withdraws. Either we can deal with this problem now or we can deal with it in the future when it’s gotten worse. To argue that we can just ignore the Middle East and hope all goes well is not even close to sound policy.
The Democrats want to force defeat without ever having to admit to such — it’s a transparently spineless ploy. They have the ability to end the war by exercising their power of the purse — if they really believe their own rhetoric that this war is somehow the biggest debacle in US history, then they have an obligation to follow through and de-fund the conflict now. However, this isn’t about principled positions, this is about kowtowing to the radical left and scoring political points. That it emboldens our enemies, demoralizes our troops, and represents an utter abrogation of responsibility towards the people of Iraq isn’t even on the radar screen.
The Founders, in their wisdom, ensured that the Executive was given the power of Commander in Chief precisely because they knew that having the military subject to the whims of a Congress was unacceptable. No matter what the Democrats may want to do, that Constitutional principle ensures that Rep. Pelosi can’t override the Joint Chiefs of Staff and try to drive our military into defeat.