Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Dems Assist Bush With Iraq Planning - Develop Plans B thru Z

The juxtaposition of two recent Washington Post stories provides a comic irony of rare clarity. Recently, the Washington Post reported that President Bush had only one plan for the Iraq War -- a Plan A, predicated on achieving U.S. goals for a stable and democratic Iraq. The clear tenor of the article was a shocked amazement that Bush would neglect the development of other contingency plans. As we now know, that concern is unjustified.

One day after the article mentioned above was published, a second article was published in the Washington Post, documeting the work of Democrats as they have set up a veritable cottage industry, printing out dozens of alternate plans for Iraq. Whole forests are being clear cut to provide the reams of paper needed by one Democrat after another as they rush to the presses, each with their own unique plan to navigate the minefield that is taking responsibiity for Iraq and the war on terror.

It is difficult work for the empowered Dems who seem adrift, trying to decide what to do with their power. The contours of their problem are clear. They want to develop a plan that will satisfy all five of the following conditions: 1) satisfy the anti-war/peace now wing that want nothing less then to get out of Iraq yesterday; 2) pass constitutional muster; 3) not lead to charges that they are failing to "support the troops; 4) not result in the Democrats having to take responsiblity for the long term effect of any plan that they propose to withdrawal troops or limit their mission; and, last but not least, 5) insure that Bush does not somehow manage to have, and be credited with, success in Iraq. This has proven to be a Democratic conundrum of the big round peg small square hole variety.

The far left -- along with John Edwards and Hillary Clinton pandering to the far left in order to win the primary -- have put forth several plans, all variations on a single theme, to have us pack up our bags and get out of Iraq post haste. But for many of the other members of the party, lets call them the cynical yet realistic Democrats, the thought of voting for withdrawal would mean that they have to take responsibility for what transpires afterwards -- and they find that possibility unpalatable in the extreme.

Then there was the Murtha Plan to simply prevent any possibility of succeeding in Iraq by forcing a slow withdrawal of troops -- the slow bleed strategy. That would leave Bush holding responsibility for the war but without the resources he needs to win. That would have been as close to a perfect plan as possible for the Democrats. But, Murtha, obviously not blessed with an abundance of guile, then doomed his own plan by leaking his intentions. The result has been a groundswell of opposition.

Pelosi, horrified (as you can tell from her picture) that the perfect plan was slipping away, huddled with Murtha and came up with the idea for some good old fashioned vote buying. They were going to write Murtha's plan into the supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq, and then tack on billions for domestic pet projects, each one aimed at buying the vote of a specific member of Congress. (Who was it that said that the two things that you never want to watch being made are sausage and legislation?) Unfortunately for Murtha and Pelosi, but fortunately for the rest of America, that incredibly cynical plan now seems to have fallen by the wayside also.

Yet another variation of the "Murtha" plan has been proposed, this keeping in all the provisions of the slow bleed strategy, yet allowing the President to waive all of them by simply notifying Congress and providing justifications for the waiver. That would be just one step beyond the House Resolution on the surge in substance. Because of that, it has failed the litmus test of the anti-war crowd.

In the Senate, Joe Biden came up with the idea of withdrawing Senate authorization for continuation of the Iraq war, and then substituting some other authorization, the contours of which were never clearly spelled out. That idea has now been buried.

Then, a few days ago, the Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad suggested that they would cut $20 billion in funds from the war effort. That plan did not survive even a day.

And now there is the most recent proposal, to utilize the benchmarks that Bush mentioned in his speech to the nation on January 10, 2007.

Under those benchmarks, . . . the Iraqi government would have to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November, and adopt and implement oil-revenue-sharing legislation. The government would also have to spend $10 billion of Iraq's money on job-creating reconstruction and infrastructure projects; hold new provincial elections this year; liberalize laws that purged Baath Party members from the government; and establish a fairer process for amending the Iraqi constitution.

If those benchmarks are not met, Democrats would demand Bush submit to Congress a timetable for withdrawing troops, leadership aides said. The idea is to force Bush to abide by his own promises but to make sure he remains responsible for conducting and ending the war.

We will see how far that one gets. In parsing the words used by the author, it appears that the failure to make a benchmark will not automatically trigger a timetable for withdrawal, but it would give the Democrats the cover they need to set in motion a process that might then lead to such a timetable.

Update March 8, 2007: The Pelosi Murtha Plan Bravo Alpha -- I think they have used up the alphabet and are now having to use two-letter designations. The not-quite- dynamic duo, having surveyed the broken terrain that is the Democrat's Iraq policy, have opted for a sort of goulash, taking bits and pieces of every plan discussed above and including them in their Plan BA. This one has a date certain for retreat from Iraq (September 2008); benchmarks that could trigger an earlier withdrawal; the slow bleed components that can be waived by the President; and to cap it off, Pelosi and Murtha have put back in the domestic spending proposals to buy votes.

Harry Reid, not to be outdone, wants legislation that would set a "goal" of withdrawal of all troops from Iraq by March 2008. Senator Reid has not flushed out the term "goal" yet, but it sounds as if it is one of those things subject to waiver. Waiver of course being an all-important tool if the cynical but realistic Democrats are to maintain that all important "plausible deniability" of any responsibility.

At any rate, watching the Democrats come up with and then discard plan after plan is starting to resemble the comic chaos of a Three Stooges short. As you can tell, the Washington Post's concern with President Bush for having only one Plan -- that being to succeed in Iraq -- was wholly unjustified. Nancy Pelosi, Jack Murtha, and Harry Reid, the left's version of Moe, Larry & Curly, are more then taking up the slack. Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck . . . .

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