Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Unraveling "Support for the Troops

On March 19, the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, President Bush asked the American public for patience and “the courage and resolve” to see the war through to victory.

Mr. Bush also called on Congress to evince its continuing support of the troops in the field by rapidly passing legislation that provides all the war funds in the administration’s supplemental appropriations request and does so with no deadlines or other conditions or restrictions.

In fact, after a full four years of growing fatalities, growing numbers of wounded – physically and psychologically – and a continuous diversion to warfare of monetary and other resources not only over the past four years but for untold years in the future to “recapitalize” the force, the public has been more than patient and more tolerant than warranted in light of the unfolding events that constitute this ill-conceived and mismanaged misadventure. Remarkably, few in the public arena or the media even remarked on the fact that with this war anniversary, Iraq becomes the longest armed conflict in our history save for the Vietnam War and the War of Independence.

To their credit, growing numbers of Americans are responding to the president’s entreaty for courage and resolve. Only the public’s resolve is to end the war, not continue it; to bring the troops home, not send more; to support the troops by honoring their sacrifices, not ordering them to make more, unwarranted sacrifices and risk more lives.

Now it is Congress’s turn to show courage and resolve by accepting the responsibility given it last November to change the direction and the mix of policy tools employed in U.S. engagement with the government and people of Iraq and with Iraq’s neighbors.

In particular, Congress must firmly and finally reject the long-standing rhetorical and political blackmail by pro-war factions who equate “supporting troops in the field” with complete freedom of action for the president as commander-in-chief. It is precisely in time of war that the powers of Congress to “raise armies” and “maintain navies” requires full congressional engagement with the president through its power to direct or limit funds, limit the scope and duration of the use of military force, and specify and enable the executive to undertake diplomatic and economic initiatives that speed the cessation of hostilities and facilitate the redeployment of the nation’s armed forces.

Since the rise of the national security state after World War II, “supporting the troops” has become a veritable mantra whose mindless repetition disguises Congress’ abdication of its ongoing responsibility to defend the rights of the public in times of strife, to ensure that “troops in the field” are not sent into battle without proper training and proper equipment and proper leadership – including leadership that recognizes when armed conflict can no longer contribute to the resolution of a dispute.

In short, for Congress to “support the troops” in time of war it must insist on conditions that minimize the risk to our armed forces (and those from other nations) committed to restoring international mores and rebalancing power relationships when all other possibilities for resolving breaches of international law have failed. The underlying end game for Congress’ “supporting the troops” is enabling them to employ the least degree of destruction in reaching the defined political-diplomatic objective. This demands continuous oversight and action to minimize war’s effects and duration, as Congress did in Lebanon in the 1980s and in Kosovo in the 1990s.

Over the last four years, military men and women have shown courage and resolve. Military families have shown courage and resolve. The American people have shown courage and resolve.

Now it is Congress’ turn.



Blogger Brian said...

Well said, Dan. I found you via a Google ad for FCNL on my site, Daily rEvolution. Having military people adding their voices to the purpose of the public is making a big difference. When I marched in NYC with UFPJ on Sunday, I saw a cross-section of society--Moms and Dads pushing baby strollers, old timers like myself, and teenagers.

It's up to us to give Congress the backbone it has so long lacked, and we do that by, as you say, reminding them why we voted for a change last November.

4:46 PM  

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