House rejects anti-war resolution
Well, what did they expect? The Democrats have been asking for such a showdown on Iraq war policy for many months, and Rep. John Murtha's speech on Thursday provided the Republicans with the perfect opportunity to dare them to back up their words with an actual vote. Not surprisingly, the Democrats flinched from the challenge. Pent-up anger on both sides exploded when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) invoked the dreaded "C" word as she conveyed the thoughts of a constituent Marine reserve officer:
"a few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp," an Ohio legislator and Marine Corps Reserve officer. "He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do." (SOURCE: Washington Post)
A fistfight almost broke out, and I caught the tail end of it on C-SPAN. Interestingly, Schmidt was the victor in that high-profile special election held in August, defeating Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett. The key vote on the House floor last night was HR-572, the procedural question of whether to consider HR-571, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately." The former measure passed 210 - 202, not exactly a strong show of support for the war effort, but it was useful nonetheless. The vote on HR-571 was 403 - 3, with 6 abstentions and 22 not voting. Both Rep. Murtha, who had announced that he would introduce such a resolution, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who actually did so, voted against it. The three "brave" dissenters were Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Robert Wexler (D-FL). To the untrained eye, this parliamentary maneuver seems like an exercise in hypocrisy, but it's a good illustration of how legislative bodies work. In R. Douglas Arnold's terminology, HR-571 was a "Politically compelling policy: The popularity of the intended effects outweighs the legislator's doubts that the means will actually work, because his opposition would be construed as lack of sympathy." The Republican leadership in the House deserves credit for astute handling of this issue, in holding the Democrats' feet to the fire.
In his speech on Thursday, Murtha said that "U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists." However, he did not mention the Shiites and Kurds, who comprise a majority of Iraq's population and do want us to remain there to ensure that the old regime does not regain power and subject them to persecution once again. Murtha then laid out his "plan":
- To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
- To create a quick reaction force in the region.
- To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
- To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.
He seems to be calling for a retreat from Iraq without abandoning the Persian Gulf, but where could a U.S. presence is maintained? We already withdrew our forces from Saudi Arabia, where we had worn out our welcome after a decade, and Kuwait and Bahrain would be rather precarious footholds in such an unstable region. Such a shift in deployment makes no strategic sense at all. If we do indeed pull out of Iraq, we might as well kiss the entire Middle East goodbye. As for diplomacy (!), perhaps Murtha could suggest someone to serve as the first ambassador to Al Qaeda. Murtha is an old man, and I suppose he can be excused for not comprehending the nature of the shadowy yet vicious adversary that we all face. I do not doubt that the pain he feels from the families of servicemen and women is genuine, and in a sense he is correct to say that military means are not the key to victory in this struggle, in which the psychological dimension is paramount. The huge irony is that he seems completely unaware that what will determine whether we ultimately prevail or succumb in this war is the home front, where he himself plays a critical role!
As a resolutely open-minded participant in this national discourse, I fully understand both the logical arguments and emotional sentiments against the war. I share some doubts myself, but I have more confidence in our President -- for all his faults -- than with the general public. Sad to say, many Americans are simply not attentive to global politics, and not particularly inclined to make sacrifices for the collective good. I'm well aware that "staying the course" does not sound like a sophisticated strategy, but the situation we are in simply does does not lend itself to any other approach than slow, grinding exertion. What I do not understand at all is how so many people in this country seem oblivious to the basic fact that our national unity and resolve is being tested by the Islamo-fascists. It sounds trite, but it cannot be repeated often enough: United we stand, divided we fall. I dearly hope that most Americans wise up and come to agree that there is No End But Victory (via Instapundit)