Congress: don't blame us, we pass resolutions!
New bumper sticker: Don't blame us: we're from Congress, and we pass resolutions!
It's reminiscent of the post-Watergate 1974 message that used to be plastered all over the cars in Boston, where I lived at the time: "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts!" That state--you may remember--had been the only one to vote for McGovern rather than Nixon in 1972.
Of course, the bumper sticker was mum on what you might have blamed McGovern for, had he been elected instead. But no matter; it certainly wouldn't have been Watergate.
The current hue and cry in Congress accompanying the race to pass resolution after resolution is an effort that can only give aid and comfort to an implacable and evil (yes, evil) enemy bent on our destruction (yes, destruction). It's inexplicable when looked at with any sort of logic, except the logic of self-preservation--Congressional self-preservation, that is.
For example, Congress thinks the world of General Petraeus; no problem with his confirmation. It's just that everything he says must be bunk, because Congress is trying to undercut his recommendations even as he speaks.
As Robert Kagan points out, why is blocking these 20,000 new troops so important, when there are already so many troops there that will remain for a while, no matter what Congress says? Haven't some of these very opponents been clamoring for more troops anyway, not less? How does Congress choose what Kagan refers to as "the magic number" of troops that should be there right now? Isn't that for that sterling commander they all know and love, General Petraeus, to decide?
And, of course, there's the question of alternatives; opponents to the surge have none. "Just go away, close our eyes, and everything will be okay--or, at least, okay enough" seems to be the gist of it. And, by the way, such stupidity and shortsidedness is an equal-opportunity trait: it's mostly Democrats speaking, but quite a few Republicans have succumbed.
It seems clear that the main force driving this is politics--the politics of short-sighted self-interest. And the "self" involved, I'm afraid, are the members of Congress themselves. Once they've gone down the path of turning on Bush and on this war, they have no other way out (unless coming up with workable alternatives would be a way out--but that, of course, would take work, and thought, and new ideas).
Members of Congress opposing the surge have positioned themselves so that our loss in Iraq would be a "win-win if we lose-lose" situation--for them. This is the way it works:
(1) If they can stop the surge before it has even a chance of succeeding, Congressional opponents of the war will win for sure. Their constituents will like them. Few will blame any ensuing carnage in Iraq on them--even if they manage to force a pullout--and they know it.
If those members of Congress have studied the history of Vietnam, they know that after some initial upsetting "helicopter on the roof" photos (that can be blamed on Bush, no doubt) they'll be pretty much home free. Only some diehards on the Right will assign blame to them for that, or for the deaths resulting from the abandonment of the Iraqis. And what if there are more terror attacks afterwards, here, there, or everywhere? Blame Bush for inflaming Muslim world, and get re-elected.
(2) There's even a possible win for them if the surge does manage to go forward against Congressional opposition, and it doesn't immediately turn the whole thing around. Then those members who are on record as having passed resolutions to oppose it will end up looking prescient. That may indeed be the real thrust behind resolutions, which, after all, are non-binding and Bush isn't going to listen to: getting their names down as opposing it.
This is especially and vitally important for those such as Hillary Clinton--and they are many--who originally voted for the war. The resolutions are meant to undo that error, even if they have no real effect in the real world--except, of course, as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pointed out, to "embolden the enemy."
One reason it's important for Democrats on the Left in particular to make sure the surge doesn't succeed is that any such success might even cause people to look back at Vietnam and question what happened there in the mid-70s. Maybe those helicopters on the roof would come home to roost in the laps (sorry for the tripley-mixed metaphor) of the Left itself. Maybe (oh, heresy! revisionism!) the Vietnam withdrawal wasn't the Left's finest hour, after all.
(3) But what if the resolution passes but the surge goes forward, and is successful in improving the situation in Iraq? What then? This is the only possible "lose" situation for war opponents at this point.
Well, one possible solution is to count on the MSM to downplay any successes, or even negate them. But it's still a dilemma. Members of Congress who vote for such a resolution will have staked their reputation on a loss in Iraq; a win there, and they're sunk. So the only answer is to stop it before it has even a chance of succeeding.
For proponents of the resolution, the die will have been cast. The biggest risk to them, paradoxically, would be a win in Iraq.