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Considering the Consequences of Withdrawal from Iraq

Peter W Rodman and William Shawcross argue in a NYT op-ed that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be as disastrous for the region and for the United States as the 1975 Communist victory in Vietnam was for Cambodia and Vietnam.
Defeat would embolden extremists and destabilize moderate governments in the Arab world. "Millions of Iraqis see the United States as their only hope." Besides, "US conduct in Iraq is crucial test of American credibility."
Marc Schulman reviews this op-ed in his blog AMERICAN FUTURE
and adds:
Our defeat in Vietnam and the subsequent isolationist sentiment made it easier for the Soviets to decide to take the risk [to invade Afghanistan]. Without engaging in historical determinism, it’s fair to say that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan set in motion a chain of events that culminated in 9/11. In the minds of bin Laden and his compatriots, the jihadists had defeated one of the world’s two superpowers and were responsible for its collapse. (...)
Bush has been roundly and soundly criticized for ignoring and misjudging the consequences of invading Iraq. That being the case, isn’t it equally important to assess — not sweep under the rug — the consequences of defeat in Iraq?
PERSONAL COMMENT: The real question is: Can the US still win in Iraq? In other words: Can the US avoid all the above mentioned negative consequences, if the US stays in Iraq with current number of US troops for three or five more years?

Those in favor of immediate withdrawal do not like a defeat either, but they think that the US cannot win in Iraq, i.e. the US can only decide between a defeat/withdrawal now or defeat/withdrawal in two, three, or five years. So do you want the above mentioned negative consequences now or in two, three, or five years?
Perhaps those in favor of staying in Iraq could explain how many more years they want to give this Iraq project and what number of coalition forces casualties is acceptable to them.

It is very much in Europe's interest that the US succeeds in Iraq, because Europe would suffer from a further destabilization of the region. Thus, it is in my interest to call upon the United States to stay at least ten more years in Iraq. If the US succeeds, that is great for Europe. If the US fails and all hell breaks lose after the US withdrawal in ten years, then we Europeans at least got ten more years. Thus I should be against a US withdrawal.
I am, however, not very optimistic that the US will succeed within ten years. I tend to believe that the US cannot fix Iraq. Thus, I am wondering if it can still be justified to send young American and British men and women into this war, if I tend to think that the US will lose. As a German, who benefited so much from the US military, I do not have the right to call upon the Americans to risk their lives in an unwinnable war.
This line of thought might also be one of the reasons, why German politicans do not say whether the US should stay or withdraw from Iraq.
What do you think?

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Anonymous on :

Can the US still win in Iraq? I do not think that an insurrection after the 1947 Geneva Conventions can be defeated by the occupying power without the collusion of the occupied. The Americans dont have the recourse to the mailed fist of citizen repraisals and retailatory infrastructure damage say the Wehrmacht had and used in WWI and WWII. Within the parameters of this new asymmetrical war, the Iraqi populace really decides if the Americans will "win" the war, meaning, I suppose, that Iraq becomes a representative democracy. Happily, Al Qaeda does not abide by the strictures of International Humanitarian Law nad if half the latest reports are true, the Sunni triangle inhabitants have seen enough of how the others would rule and have reassessed their evaluations of what the Americans offer. The best the American military can do is provide an opportunity and incentives for the Iraqis to make this choice. If next month a charismatic Shia Iman appeared and preached the birds from the trees and declared 'jihad' on the American occupiers and the Americans were forced to withdraw from all Shia areas, would they have "lost"? What recourse would exist to act against a militant and mobilized citizenry in accordance with international law? You cant shoot em; you cant confine them in concentration camps, pace Niall Ferguson... Dear readers, how many more years and casualties do you want to try? An insulting and base remark.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

No insult or anything like that intended. I will try to rephrase that question. Basically, what I am interested in: How much is Iraq worth to you? How many US lives? How many more years do you want to give this project a chance? I believe that those are legitimate questions. They are not insulting, but go to the core of it. I don't like people who get insulted quickly. I am sure plenty of people in favor of withdrawal feel insulted, when they are accused of being in favor of defeat, while those for staying the course are the brave patriotic Americans in favor of victory. Zyme has brought up in an earlier threat Daimler Chrysler. Daimler gave it try and then cut their loses at some point, because Chrysler was not worth it to try any longer. So how much longer do the American people want to try in Iraq? Is the Iraq war as important as the Second World War? Then you would expect much more sacrifices by Americans, i.e. staying in Iraq for many more years. However, I doubt that even the majority of war supporters consider Iraq that important. What do you think? And, Mr. Anonymous, why don't you use a name for your comments? It does not have to be your real name. I just do not want to confuse you with anybody else who might leave the name field blank (=> Anonymous)

Don S on :

How long? Long enough to give the Iraqi people a chance to make up their minds whether they wish the massadrah or democracy. Whehther they can live at peace which each other. Is the cost too much? I have two answers to that. The first is that human life is precious. We have lost 3400 Us soldiers & the Brits have lost more than 250. Iraqis have lost far more than that. Sometimes to US military actions, sometimes to mistakes by the US forces, rarely to deliberate war crimes by US forces. Very often the losses have been to deliberate atrocities perpetrated by Al-Qaeda branded murderers or to the gangs of murderers operated by their opponents the Al-Sadr Brigades and such. All those lives will have been lost for nothing if we crumble now. We should grieve for the honored dead and try to honor their loss by seeing this through. The other answer is - on an historical basis the losses have not been that much. Certainly US losses are at less than 8% the level of Vietnam to date. Iraqi losses of perhaps 100,000 people are heavy - but in comparison to what? Let's see..... What can we compare this to? How many Vietnamese lost to that country's civil war between 1950 and 1973? Two million? Cambodia? Estmates of 4 million casualties. One million lost in Armenia, about the same lost in Rwanda, how many lost in Congo? How many in Darfur to date, and the other murders of the Sudanese government. How many did Saddam's regime murder - I've heard estimates of up to 2 million although the concensus is a 'mere' million or so. The stakes are extremely high in this kind of thing, and 100,000 are just openers. Joerg, you and other war opponents seem to be doing your best to sap the will of Americans to see this through, with considerable success I add. If the US goes, and if a couple million Iraqis and Afghans die as a result, will you and your fellows take your share of the blame? I fear not....

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Don, "How long? Long enough to give the Iraqi people a chance to make up their minds whether they wish the massadrah or democracy." Could you please be a more specific? How many years do you give Iraqis "to make up their minds"?

Don S on :

No, I can't be completely specific. Not forever - possibly as long as another couple of years. War opponents have lost the plot. as protracted and difficult and costly as this war has been - and as little use as most of the US 'friends' have been (or should I write 'ex-friends', Jorge?) - there are far worse things than the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Zaire - these are examples of what can and do happen. Pulling out because one cannot 'win' is specious reasoning. It amounts to a foreign policy featuring the petulance of a spoiled child - reasoning that because one cannot define completely what winning is one refuses to participate. Germany and France have taken the petulant route - I would not have the US follow them. What is a 'win' in the current situation? A reasonably stable Iraq, one in which the Sunnis can survive if not exactly thrive. One in which none of the three groups get to impose their will on the other two. Democracy is a 'nice to have' but if we can avert a blood bath even with a dictator or an oligarchy - I'd settle for that.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Don "No, I can't be completely specific. Not forever - possibly as long as another couple of years." If you want more people to support the war, then you have to tell them what you are asking of them. How many more years? Bush's begging for more patience is not enough. He is losing more and more in approval ratings in the US. I think war supporters could convince more Americans to stay in Iraq, if they argue that Iraq can be fixed in five years. [b]Why don't the war supporters argue that five (or ten) more years with x thousand troops and x billion dollars is a price worth paying for considering what is at stake?[/b] "as little use as most of the US 'friends' have been (or should I write 'ex-friends', Jorge?)" You can't ask impossible things from us. Germany is not capable of fixing Iraq. That's why we did not join the war coalition in 2003. Asking the impossible from your friends is not fair. If I invest in a bad start up, then I can't blame you later on, if you refuse to throw your money into this project as well. "What is a 'win' in the current situation? A reasonably stable Iraq, one in which the Sunnis can survive if not exactly thrive. One in which none of the three groups get to impose their will on the other two. Democracy is a 'nice to have' but if we can avert a blood bath even with a dictator or an oligarchy - I'd settle for that." Germany can't help you with that. Nobody can, I believe. If you have any suggestions what Germany or the EU should do to achieve your above mentioned goals, please let me know. [b] I invite you and anybody else to write a guest blog post describing what Germany or the EU could do to help the US in Iraq[/b] I am very interested in this!!!

Zyme on :

"Democracy is a 'nice to have' but if we can avert a blood bath even with a dictator or an oligarchy - I'd settle for that." My goodness that´s exactly the reason why the whole war was totally useless. There already was a stable Iraq with a dictator - and you would now accept the same constellation as a success? This surprises me a lot!

Don S on :

Ummmm, no Zyme. Not so. There are dictators and then there are dictators. Lumping dictors like Saddam Hussein in with dictators like Augusto Pinochet is a huge mistake. Let's coin a new phrase. Let's invent a category of ruler named 'Genocideators'. Pinchet was a nasty, brutal, evil, and loathsome dictator. Hussein, Pol Pot, Stalin, and the unlamented Ah were 'genocideators' - and that is an entire different kettle of fish. What I'm referring to is a dictator - not a 'genocideator'.

Anonymous on :

They are not insulting, but go to the core of it. I don't like people who get insulted quickly. No, its just crude. Discounting the experimental grammar and poor word choice, the notion that Americans are 'trying' to achieve some level of KIAs for some purpose is reprehensible. Vietnam cost 50,000 KIAs and was largely secondary in any geopolitical accounting for the US. This venture is fundamental and of primary importance. The Arab world, especially due to the fiasco that is the Palestine question, must be shown American bona fides. Pres Clinton is not going to withdraw the troops. No serious Democratic president is going to, either. Vietnam was a one-off. In fourty years time, cities in Iraq will look like Mannheim and K-town--garrison towns. I am sure plenty of people in favor of withdrawal feel insulted, when they are accused of being in favor of defeat, while those for staying the course are the brave patriotic Americans in favor of victory. Thats puerile. Almost like the analogy to Daimler Chrysler, economic losses are just like foreign wars...

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"This venture is fundamental and of primary importance." Do you think the majority of Americans see it that way? Why are more and more Americans in favor of withdrawal?

Don S on :

Tired of being stereotyped as crazed nazi torture-fiend war-crimimals? Tired of earnest debates in some 'allied' countries asking whether contributing 3000 (+) noncombatant 'soldiers' is 'too much'. Tired of polls from said 'allies' with 70% of their citzens of the opinion that the US President is lower than pond scum and worse than one AH? Could be.....

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Why should Americans care about the debate in Germany? Anonymous said that the Iraq project is "of primary importance." Thus, Americans should not care about German views, but focus on achieving their goals in the Middle East. Bush decided to ignore Schroeder's opposition to the Iraq war and went ahead with it. Since the US decided to ignore German opinions in 2003, why should the US care about German opinions now in 2007? Why do you claim that Americans are in favor of withdrawal because of the bad press from Germany? Does not make sense at all to me. Why not continue the hard work in Iraq and turn it into a democracy, Don? The Arab world will be very thankful of the US. => No more Anti-Americanism, no more terrorism and instead you have secured your oil supply for decades, while Europe does not get any oil. Continental Europe's image in the Arab world will be "the supporter of Saddam" who refused democratization. Thus everything will be great for the US and bad for Europe. Ignore and screw Europe, and make new friends in the Middle East. Instead of that, you seem to blame Europe for America's failures.

Don S on :

"Why should Americans care about the debate in Germany?" Because the 'deabte' in Germany ostensibly sets Germany policy - which has resulted in little effective help from what ought to be our strongest ally. Only the UK owes more to the US. Although one might argue that France should feel a bit more obligation given that the US kept Kaiser Bill's toopers from marching down the Champs Elysees in 1918 and permitted Charles DeGaulle to personally 'liberate' France with such a parade in 1945. But no sense beating a dead horse - and that one has been rotting since 1964 at the latest.... Now Germany seeks to do the most delicate of diplomatic tasks - emulate DeGaulle (on all important points) whilst retaining the US committment to the defense of Europe. Do you really believe that your leaders are up to that one? Talleyrand & Metternich in their heyday could not have done it - but Angie Merkel is going to do it while holding Bush at arm's length. She'll probably trie balance 1000 angels on the head of a pin at the same time - some people don't understand their own limits! We're not that dumb, Joerg. We were dumb enough to believe that the German people regarded the US as an important ally and were ready to do what was necessary to succor that alliance, 'tis true. But it's a case of 'fool me once'..... If you value the alliance I suggest that a ton of repair needs to be done - starting in Europe. But I see no possiblility of that happening in time to save NATO....

Zyme on :

It is very sobering to see that you still think so much in terms of grattitude when discussing international politics. Don´t you see that there never will be any grattitude from Europe as long as it plays second fiddle? American involvement may have saved France from a german occupation in 1918. But more importantly it has shifted power across the Atlantic. Until that has returned I am afraid there are little chances for grattitude.

Don S on :

Ok, Zyme, let's explain this in realpolitik. Any alliance is a 'quid pro quo', NATO decidedly not excluded. There has been a pronounced trend within the German and French portion of the NATO allaiance to detach the 'pro quo' from the 'quid', a trend which was completed with the diplmatic actions and refusal of military actions circa 2003 to date. Not to say it only occured then - the trend dates back to Willy Brandt. NATO is now a 'quid' - the US, Canada, UK et al remain obligated to defend Germany and France - Germany and France recognize no effective obligations at all to the other part of the alliance. This cannot stand because it is not to the national advantage of any NATO ally EXCEPT that of Germany! Angela Merkel is continuing the same policy as Gerhard Schroeder and Joska Fischer - quid but no quo. The only difference is that she adds a little icing in a doomed effort to conceal the nature of the cake on offer. The icing makes no difference in the end - Germany's idea of rendering alliance aid remains endless debate about how to deploy almost nothing - and how to remove all the value from the almost nothing which you DO deplay!

Zyme on :

Realpolitik is good. Maybe this explains the european stance: The importance of Nato can be easily displayed - just imagine: Would its member states found such an alliance today in case there would not already be a Nato? I guess you know the answer. The alliance has lost its primary reason of existence - the eastern block. Just because it has become obsolet this does not mean you have to dissolve it instantly. It is better to wait for a moment when it is opportune. Until that point is reached, why waste any more ressources than absolutely necessary to keep up the illusion?

bob on :

Most points supra are realistic assumptions. NATO is largely irrelevant, if the core purpose of the alliance is to defend Europe from Soviet invasion. The NATO operation in Afghanistan is laughable, as are the number and quality of the European fighting forces. America would prefer to liberate its troops from garrison duty in Germany, but how can they without potentially disturbing the internal political equilibrium of European politics? The European post war landscape is built on the assumption of forced German passivity. It seems far-fetched and even silly now, but the French, Poles, Czechs and Danes all sleep easier knowing that the Herrenvolk has a few American armoured divisions within their borders. A precipitate withdrawal might encourage Russia to attack the Baltics or the Ukraine. Territorial acquisition for economic gain does seem so 18th century, but what about the Kremlin's current foreign policy smacks of the 3rd millenia? They only way to suss out if the transatlantic relationship has changed is in practice. My prize pig is Kosovo. After 8 years of NATO/EU occupation, the US and the EU want Kosovo independent and the Russians, to put it mildly, don't. It would be quite consistent for the Russians to send volunteers and military equipment to ethnic Serbs and monetarily support their 'liberation' effort. I think that the war could be quite popular in Serbia, if framed properly as defensive reflex against Yankee and Europen colonialism--we can not become Hungary and suffer de facto another Treaty of Trianon; what's next Voidivina (insert 'j's and other vowels where appropriate)? If Kosovo blows up, I'm inclined to agree with Greg and the EU is on its own. It is not central to European security. The EU has had 8 years to fix the problem and hasn't solved anything substantive. That's a true but unfair statement. It is the Balkans...Finally, no one wants to fight genocidial Slavs in a drawn-out war of attrition in the mountains? We know how the Russians wage war, ask your grandparents. This could be our Dafur. Shame really about the Albanians, but...

Don S on :

"internal political equilibrium of European politics" Why should this matter a whit to the US or any american not an expat in Europe? "French, Poles, Czechs and Danes all sleep easier knowing that the Herrenvolk has a few American armoured divisions within their borders. A precipitate withdrawal might encourage Russia to attack the Baltics or the Ukraine." Add Germany to that list - Germans earnestly don't wish to be 'evil' (or so Joerg assures me) - presumably that means US troops in Germany. If 'peace of mind' is of value then iit is worth paying for. The payment can come in alliance terms - real, substantial, and effective support when the US needs it. Or it could come in cash. right now the US is getting - nothing. Neither are Canada, the UK, Iceland, etc. Can't stand.

Marc Schulman on :

Joerg: Thanks for the link. I wrote the following post on Iraq last August, and stand by it now: [url]http://americanfuture.net/?p=2083[/url]

Pat Patterson on :

I found it fascinating that William Shawcross, who had exociated Nixon and Kissinger and obviously the United States as well in his book, Sideshow. In it he argued that the US policy put those countries into danger, Laos and Cambodia, and that there was simply no moral or more importantly political justification for any futher US involvement there. But five years later in another book, The Quality of Mercy, Shawcross did almost a complete about face and argued that regardless of the cause of the war the US, by leaving precipitately caused the situation to worsen beyond belief. Shawcross seems to have come to the conclusion that there must be some form of a modern Great Power revival. But shorn of the white man's burden rhetoric but still with the idea that if one of the Great Powers retreats then the replacement will be far worse.

Annonymous on :

[url]http://bbsnews.net/article.php/20070429190928668[/url]

David on :

What the Bush apologists think here is irrelevant - it's all over but the shouting. The American people have abandoned this war (7 out of 8) - there is absolutely no way they will change their opinion and support the occupation. It is only a matter of time before US troops are withdrawn. Too bad more have to die in the short term because of the delusional surge.

Annonymous on :

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020901917.html

Greg on :

I agree with those who think the consequences of failure in Iraq would be disastrous. An emboldened al Qaeda that can claim victory is undesirable to say the least. They could even set up training camps in the western desert. Iran's influence grows. The kurds, so grateful for what America's sacrifice has brought them, would be attacked by Turkey. I also agree with those who say that the American people don't see it that way. I am decidedly in the minority with my viewpoint. Don S. hit the nail on the head when he explained why. The propaganda campaign against America is working like a charm. Americans are sick and tired of the negative press. They want to be loved, even if it means ignoring the nation's interests. Pathetic but true. As to how many lives it's worth, I look back to 9/11. I remember sitting stunned in front of my TV screen, fuming with an anger that hasn't subsided much. Everyone agreed we needed to do whatever it took to ERADICATE al Qaeda. I still feel that way. Whatever it takes to kick al Qaeda out of Iraq is what we need to expend. However, I predict we will leave ignominously, the last US soldier firing his weapon as he backs out. It will usher in that long period of isolationism referenced by Schulman. And in 10 years the world that hates America for being in Iraq today will hate it for not "finishing the job" and leaving Iraq a mess.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Yes, that is the dilemma. "And in 10 years the world that hates America for being in Iraq today will hate it for not "finishing the job" and leaving Iraq a mess." I agree with your conclusion, mostly. Many Europeans will blame America for leaving Iraq in a mess. They will blame you for the ethnic cleansing, the refugees, the regional crisis etc etc. I disagree, however, with your statement that "the world hates America for being in Iraq today." [b]Do you know any European politician or editorialist, who calls for an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq? [/b] I think many people around the world criticize America for [i]invading Iraq[/i], but they don't hate the US for continuing to be in Iraq, i.e. stay. They recognize that the US got itself into a mess and is screwed now. The US will pay a huge price if she stays or if she leaves Iraq. Or did I misunderstand you? Perhaps you meant the Iraq invastion by "being in Iraq"...? I just wanted to point out that hardly anybody is blaming the US for still being in Iraq. Germans love to point out real and alleged mistakes by the US in Iraq, but there are not many people who believe Iraq would be better off, if the US would withdraw immediately. I find it strange that so many Americans believe that Europeans constantly villify the United States. Well, yeah, as you, Greg, point out: "Americans are sick and tired of the negative press. They want to be loved, even if it means ignoring the nation's interests. Pathetic but true." The lack of love from Europe is perceived as vilification...?

Greg on :

Now that you mention it, joerg, I haven't heard European leaders saying the US should get out. In fact, they've pretty much avoided the subject for the past couple of years, probably b/c they don't want to piss off DC by saying anything on the subject, or piss off their own people by suggesting the US needs to stay in Iraq. But the press! Phew! It's bad. And we read it. I go to watchingamerica.com everyday to read translations of what's in the foreign press, and it's always ugly. Not just on Iraq. On everything. Maybe it's always been this way, and I just now noticed. But I think the vitriol probably has something to do with Iraq.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I agree, the Europen press is not even handed. Our press likes to write negative stories about the US. Many in the press like to have a America look bad. But: Watching America is not even handed either. Watching America likes to have the foreign press look bad as well. That's why they translate primarily negative stories about the US. They do not translate many pro American stories or balanced analyses. Take for instance this rather pro-American editorial in the German newspaper Die Welt (July 19, 2007), which argues against Anti-Americanism, wrong perceptions of the US and the lack of gratitude: [url]http://www.welt.de/welt_print/article1037610/Undank_ist_der_Welt_Lohn.html[/url] I am sure Watching America won't translate it. They have an agenda and focus on negative stories in order to make Europe look bad. I will post tomorrow a piece about French Pro-Americanism, which probably did not get much coverage at all.

watcher on :

Here is the latest editorial comment by the NY Times, arguing that George W. Bush acts rather like a king than a president. Editorial Observer Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War By ADAM COHEN Published: July 23, 2007 The nation is heading toward a constitutional showdown over the Iraq war. Congress is moving closer to passing a bill to limit or end the war, but President Bush insists Congress doesn’t have the power to do it. “I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” he said at a recent press conference. “I think they ought to be funding the troops.” He added magnanimously: “I’m certainly interested in their opinion.” The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification. But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side. Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.” The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.” Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.” When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress. The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces. The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.” The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.” As opinion turns more decisively against the war, the administration is becoming ever more dismissive of Congress’s role. Last week, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman brusquely turned away Senator Hillary Clinton’s questions about how the Pentagon intended to plan for withdrawal from Iraq. "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq,” he wrote. Mr. Edelman’s response showed contempt not merely for Congress, but for the system of government the founders carefully created. The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended. Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.

Anonymous on :

Excellent. The NYT comes out with a strict constructalist interpretation of the 'commander and chief' role, conveniently omitting that such an interpretation would automatically nullify every social programme they hold dear: New Deal legislation, Roe v. Wade, dormant commerce clause, affirmative action...Nor does it mention that Congress can cut off spending for the Iraq war and related discretionary funding if it had the votes. There is not a plurality in Congress willing to even pass a budget that would accomplish this laudable act and certainly not enough votes in the Senate to override a Presidential veto. For Johhny Foreigner, when your article starts imagining that the Founding Fathers might disagree with your political opponents, it's the secular equivalent of 'what would Jesus do?'?

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