Thursday, February 02, 2006

Murtha, Blumenauer on Iraq

From the wonderful Lynn Allen, who does for Washington what we aim to do for Oregon, another superbly stated case for withdrawal by Congressman Jack Murtha. Note that Murtha did not rant and rave and disrupt anything other than the natural order when he submitted his bill. He did not respond (to my knowledge) to attempts to swift-boat him after his proposal. And he did not become increasingly desperate on talk TV when his story faded.

What he did is reassess, redouble his efforts, and restate his case in an open letter to President Bush:
The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80% of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq and 47% think it is justified to attack Americans.

The steadfast and valiant efforts of the United States military and coalition partners have provided the Iraqi people with the framework needed to self govern. The Iraqis held elections that have been touted as highly successful, based primarily on the accounts of Iraqis who went to the polls. But our continued military presence in Iraq, regardless of the motives behind it, is seen by Iraqis as interfering in Iraq's democratic process and undercuts the chances for the newly elected government to be successful.

The longer our military stays in Iraq, the more unwelcome we will be. We will be increasingly entangled in an open-ended nation building mission, one that our military can not accomplish amidst a civil war. Our troops will continue to be the targets of Iraqis who see them as interfering occupiers.

Redeploying our forces from Iraq and stationing a mobile force outside of the country removes a major antagonizing factor. I believe we will see a swift demise of foreign terrorist groups in Iraq if we redeploy outside of the country. Further, our troops will no longer be the targets of bloody attacks.
Notice how light Murtha is in cricitizing the decision for war here. He doesn't mention lies or blood for oil or anything of the sort. That does not mean, however, that he spared criticism of the conduct of the war and the effect it is having on specifically the Army. Murtha is friendly with the highest levels of active and retired uniformed command, so it is natural for him to focus his concerns on readiness and effectiveness as he does here. And Murtha's reputation as the Generals' Advocate in Congress gives him exceptionally strong defense credibility for a Democrat.

While Murtha does have a four Rs strategy for making the best of the Iraq situation, he is less focused on details of engagement than readiness and high-level strategy. Not to say he is deliberately vague or has nothing to offer in detail, but Murtha has been excellent at providing the key element needed before details: acceptance of the premise that withdrawal is a superior option to more of the same. For a fuller sketch of exactly how we might extricate ourselves and improve Iraq's chances, we can turn to a little known Congressman who was already formulating a plan at the same time Murtha was calling for a new one: Earl Blumenauer, representative to Little, Portland. How do I know he is giving us a plan? He used bullet points:
• Immediately clarify, forcefully and plainly, our long-term intentions and intermediate objectives in Iraq so that a withdrawal would not be viewed as a retreat or lack of will and vision. Renounce any permanent designs on Iraq's territory or resources, and plans for permanent bases there.

• Return to the United States the approximately 46,000 Guard and Reserve forces in Iraq immediately following the December elections.

• Draw-down the rest of the U.S. forces over the next one to two years, based on a detailed plan for the transfer of security responsibility on a sector by sector basis. The vast majority of these troops should be brought home. Others should be redeployed to Afghanistan to create a larger security footprint and help prevent the reemergence of the Taliban. A small rapid-reaction force should be left in Kuwait that can protect against any destabilizing coups. Until the withdrawal is complete, the troops remaining in Iraq should focus on holding and stabilizing population centers, rather than hunting down and killing insurgents.

• Shift reconstruction aid to Iraq away from large projects undertaken by foreign contactors towards small, locally oriented projects run by Iraqis. We can help create jobs, give Iraqis a greater investment in their success, and avoid corruption and price-gouging at the same time. Continued funding must be based on results.

• Increase support for the non-governmental organizations that provide much-needed training and assistance to Iraqi political leaders, labor unions, and civil society organizations which provide the backbone of any democracy.

• Seek a new United Nations resolution in favor of international efforts to support Iraq, including U.N. supervision of political and democratic development and training of civilian government capacity, a program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militias, and responsibility for securing munitions and weapons.

• Work to bring other countries in to the training and stability force, under NATO control, if possible, and accept offers from Egypt, Jordan, France, and Germany to train Iraqi troops out of country.

• Diplomatically engage all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, to begin a regional security dialogue with an aim towards restricting their destabilizing interference in Iraqi affairs.

• While we should not negotiate with terrorists, the US needs to make a renewed effort toward a political solution by diplomatically engaging nationalist, not radical Islamic, faction leaders who might be willing to support a stable Iraq without a U.S. presence, in an attempt to drive a wedge through the insurgency. This can be based on similar efforts to engage the IRA in Northern Ireland.

• Allow the Iraqi government to set its own economic course, rather than insisting on the quick privatization of government services, the reduction of government revenues, and the elimination of a social safety net which will lead to increased social disruption and instability.

• Refocus on the real war on terror and other national security threat, including preventing the reemergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, disrupting terror networks across the world, eliminating the social and political conditions that provide support to violent extremists, and developing real strategies to deal with nuclear proliferation in North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran.

These are excellent considerations to my mind, and at the very least they are starting points for discussion. But no such serious discussion is taking place, because there's no chance in hell any Democrat is going to move Iraq policy one bit beyond where Bush wants to take it. So things like Blumenauer's plan and Murtha's letters and amendments come and go, and make no impact in a House firmly outnumbering them.

There are two things needed for Democrats to shake the label that they are lacking in ideas. First they need some. And when they get some, like these two gentlemen surely have, if the ideas are worth pressing for then supportive outlets (like Loaded Orygun in this case) have to do the heavy lifting of the discourse for them. The legislature will not help, and the media is inattentive at best, distortive and dismissive at worst.

I leave you with more of the persuasive Iraq scenario building of John Murtha, and a warning that is a little chill-rendering:
Our military presence is the single most important reason why the Iraqis have tolerated the foreign terrorists, who account for less than 7 percent of the insurgency. 93% of the insurgency is made up of Iraqis. Once our troops are re-deployed, the Iraqis will reject the terrorists and deny them a safe haven in Iraq. The Iraqis are against a foreign presence in Iraq of any kind.


During a time of war, we are cutting our combat force, we have not mobilized industry, and have never fully mobilized our military. On our current path, I believe that we are not only in danger of breaking our military, but that we are increasing the chances of a major miscalculation by our future enemies, who may perceive us as vulnerable.