Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The soft bigotry of low expectations for the Commander in Chief

A few days ago I switched on C-span and caught a group of Republicans attempting to defend the President's position on Iraq. I won't bother to analyze all the nonsense these Representatives spewed, but the following comment by David Davis (R-Tenn.) is noteworthy:

Can you imagine being a soldier over there and knowing that the Congress has the potential to pass a law that we could pull out in 18 months. Can you imagine being a soldier over there at 17 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, and you are on patrol and knowing you can lose your life or your limb, but in 3 days you are going to be pulled out and we are going to lose the war anyway. I can't imagine being a soldier that is being asked to do that. We need to have soldiers that understand that we are going to be there for them because they are there for us.

Like Davis, I can't see any justification for asking a soldier to do that. But unlike Davis, I would say that Bush shouldn't ask a soldier to do that. Davis is one of those Republicans who insists on blaming everybody else for Bush's flaws. Thus, even in a hypothetical which Davis himself constructed, in which Bush sends a soldier out on a dangerous patrol even though we will "lose the war" regardless of whether the soldier goes or not, Davis doesn't see the problem as being that we have a commander in chief who callously sends our young men and women into combat without seriously thinking about whether the benefit is worth the sacrifice. Instead, Davis blames Congress.

"Being there" for our soldiers means, among other things, ensuring that they are only sent into combat when they can accomplish something worth while. Davis basicly concedes that Bush does not do this--otherwise Davis's hypothetical doesn't make sense. Bush will try to keep the war going until the end of his presidency, not because it is in America's national interest, but in the hopes of shifting some of the blame for the war onto his successor. So it is up to Congress to exercise its power to decide whether we fight indefinitely or bring the war to a close.

I actually agree with Davis that Congress should not "micromanage the war." This means that Bush should be the one to decide exactly when and how to withdraw our troops, even though, as in Davis's hypothetical, Bush will probably make those decisions with callous disregard for our troops and for America's national interest. But Congress can and should set a deadline for withdrawal. Bush will probably mismanage the withdrawal, but he's been mismanaging the war ever since it started. The choice, as I see it, is between Bush mismanaging a withdrawal and Bush mismanaging a continuing occupation. I vote for withdrawal.