Thursday, June 22, 2006

Democrats Proposals for Iraq: Levin Amendment

Amazing how the MSM have been reporting on the political conflict on the topic, but constantly fail to actually tell you what the proposals are. The Levin amendment has some reasonable requests, though I think the whole thing as a unit isn't going to make it. But when does reasonable ever succeed in politics?
"Americans want an exit strategy," countered Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "The status quo is a disaster."

The GOP-controlled Senate was poised to vote Thursday on two Democratic proposals to start redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq this year, a week after both houses of Congress soundly rejected withdrawal timetables.

Both proposals - offered as amendments to an annual military bill - were expected to be defeated, mostly along partisan lines.

"One hundred percent of the Democratic caucus believes it's time for change. One hundred percent of the Republican caucus believes it's time to stay the course," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during debate, voicing the Democratic view of the likely vote outcome as well as the choice facing voters this fall.

Boxer's contention is just wrong. The results that have been seen in the past year are proof that the policy is succeeding, even if only slowly. That is far from a disaster. And Durbin has it wrong as well. Absolutes like that are never true. There is always people that want variations to the situation. The votes may fall completely along partisan lines, but that won't prove that the beliefs held are absolute on this topic.
Sen. George Allen, R-Va., laid out the stark differences according to Republicans, saying Democrats offer "a vacillating strategic plan for retreat" while the GOP supports "a steady strategic plan for success."

To counter criticism that no weapons of mass destruction turned up in Iraq even though that was a key argument for going to war, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., released a newly declassified military intelligence report. It said that coalition forces had found 500 munitions in Iraq that contained degraded sarin or mustard nerve agents, produced before the 1991 Gulf War.

Allen gets it wrong as well. That characterization is overly simple. There are proposals from the democrats, including this one from Levin et al, that are intentionally steady. They just want the plan to be understood and in the public eye.

As for those WMDs, I wasn't surprised to hear that they were found, though the initial reports didn't give any details. You had to have thought that they were likely leftovers from previous conflicts. The quantity was small and the details to what they were was vague. Though I would rather see the report than hear the MSM reported evidence that they were from the Iran-Iraq war. I'm just not that trusting that the media will provide accurate information and not just fly with conflicting rumors. Oh, and Mustard Gas is a blistering agent, not a nerve agent.

WaPo has an additional article looking at the presidential politics for the next election related to this topic.

Here is what Levin proposed in his speech:
What does our amendment urge the President to do relative to our troops in Iraq?

  • First, after consultation with the Government of Iraq, begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of this year;

  • Second, submit to Congress a plan by the end of 2006 with estimated dates for the continued phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq, with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise; and

  • Third, expedite the transition of U.S. forces in Iraq to a limited presence and mission of training, providing logistical support, protecting U.S. infrastructure and personnel, and participating in targeted counterterrorism activities.

  • Finally, our amendment recognizes that during and after the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq, the United States will need to sustain a non-military effort to actively support reconstruction, governance, and a durable political solution in Iraq.

Our amendment doesn't establish a fixed ending date for the redeployment. It doesn't set out fixed milestones once the phased redeployment has begun. So while it does not establish a timetable, it does establish a fixed, but not precipitous, time for the beginning of a phased redeployment - by the end of this year.

Beginning the phased redeployment of American troops in 2006 would send a very clear message to the Iraqis: We've been in Iraq over three years. We've lost 2,500 brave Americans and suffered more than seven times that number of casualties to make it possible for Iraq to become a free nation. You, the Iraqis, must now decide whether you want a civil war or a nation.

Mr. President, sending that message to the Iraqis and ending the open-ended U.S. policy toward Iraq will:

  • Prod the Iraqis to take the steps necessary to end the dominance of the militias;

  • Reduce the Iraqi dependence on the U.S. security blanket, which deters tough choices by the Iraqis;

  • Change the perception that we are permanently occupying Iraq, a perception which plays into the hands of terrorists;

  • Reduce the number of U.S. targets for terrorists and insurgents; and

  • Reduce the strain on U.S. forces.
The requirement for the start of a phased deployment is a strict time table and is just unrealistic. This doesn't address the potential for the need for increased military in Iraq is there is a need. Though he does make a statement about contingencies, I don't see that there isn't conflict in how that can be read.

Requiring a plan with dates isn't completely reasonable, since it will make public a timetable that will only be useful for political bickering when dates aren't met. Some of the discussion I listened to yesterday made this sound more like they desire to have a plan with defined milestones toward withdrawal, which sounded more reasonable. I would be surprised if some such plan doesn't already exist in the military hierarchy.

I find the "security blanket" statements to be a bit short sighted. There are some that want the Military to stay until there is absolute peace, but that isn't realistic. From just what the MSM puts out, you'd think that there is more desire from all parties in Iraq to get the US out ASAP. The present government is being more realistic and looking at phased withdrawals from areas that are relatively peaceful and could be controlled by Iraqi forces.

I think this plan would find much more success if it stopped the time-table demands and stuck with milestones. In fact, if this administration were a little more open, they could probably lay out the basics of what plans they likely already have.

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