As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why Does Bush Hate The Troops?

Last year Jim Webb and others offered the dwell time amendment to the defense appropriations bill and the emergency supplemental, calling for the Defense Department to allow a soldier as much time at home as he has in the field. The Administration called it craven, Republicans termed it a "slow-bleed" strategy and everybody questioned everybody's patriotism.

Bush just agreed to it today.

President Bush plans to announce today that he will cut Army combat tours in Iraq from 15 months to 12 months, returning rotations to where they were before last year's troop buildup in an effort to alleviate the tremendous stress on the military, administration officials said.

The move is in response to intense pressure from service commanders who have expressed anxiety about the toll of long deployments on their soldiers and, more broadly, about the U.S. military's ability to confront unanticipated threats. Bush will announce the decision during a national speech, in which aides said he will also embrace Army Gen. David H. Petraeus's plan to indefinitely suspend a drawdown of forces.

They can suspend the drawdown, or pause, as per the current parlance, but without the 15-month tours they cannot draw back up if needed. And so the President is basically acknowledging the endgame in Iraq. And don't let him tell you that troop decisions will be made based on conditions on the ground. He just consigned the US to a smaller force in Iraq regardless of the conditions.

Now, John McCain's refusal to rule out pre-emptive war means that he would have to increase tours of duty back to 15 months and/or dramatically increase the size of the Army, and the only way to do that is through a draft. The logical outcome of McCain's foreign policy is the end of the all-volunteer Army. So, let the buyer beware.

With respect to Iraq, this really does spell the end and I think Bush must have been given the message that it's basically over. When you see someone like Kenneth Pollack basically admit that a responsible withdrawal is demanded, you know that there's actually this sea change that very few people are noticing out in the field. The frustration on the faces of Congressmembers during the Petraeus/Crocker hearings showed that they've basically had it. Every step forward is accompanied by two steps back, and in the process we are losing lives and diverting resources from the real national security challenges. You're going to see this manifest itself first in the pullback of money from the war. Here's some more of the Post article.

Democrats moved to press Bush on another front, linking the sagging U.S. economy to escalating war costs. On a day when oil hit $112 a barrel for the first time, lawmakers said that energy-rich Iraq should be footing more of its own bills. "We've put about $45 billion into Iraq's reconstruction . . . and they have not spent their own resources," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). "They have got to have some skin in the game."

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) met yesterday to craft a bipartisan bill to make Iraq take on a greater share of the financial burden. Under their plan, any future U.S. money for reconstruction would take the form of a loan to be repaid, and Baghdad would have to pay for fuel used by U.S. troops and for the training of its own security forces, and make payments to the predominantly Sunni fighters in the Awakening movement taking on al-Qaeda.

"It's time, in fact long past time, the Iraqis start bearing a larger portion of the costs for this war," Collins said. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) echoed the sentiment. "Doesn't it just make sense that record-high gas prices pay for the reconstruction of Iraq, rather than the American taxpayer?" he asked.

This issue is resonant and I think it will click with voters. So money will come out, the troops will remain for another year because nobody in the Congress has the balls to fully fund withdrawal and nothing else. However, dwell time will return to balance (albeit with a waiting period just long enough to keep up the pace of deployments until Bush leaves office), the money burden will shift more and more to the Iraqis, and there will absolutely be an accountability moment on the war in November, with responsible withdrawal on the table. And the people are on the side of getting out. If Republicans want to bet on the electorate's resolve to stay inside Iraq with no endgame strategy and no plan for even defining success, go ahead. We're see you at the Inaugural ball - before we go inside.

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