Congressional Democrats deserve credit for opposing more troops for Iraq. The last thing that Americans need is more deaths, more woundings, and more disabled soldiers.
Howard Dean was pilloried by Bush and his allies in late 2003 for saying that the capture of Saddam Hussein would not make America any safer. He was right on that, although his "gaffe" undoubtedly contributed to the escalation of attacks on his electability that ultimately cost him the Iowa Caucuses and the Democratic Presidential nomination.
Today, Saddam Hussein is dead after an execution and a conviction which documented various crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. And America is still not safe from terrorist attacks, here or in Iraq.
The argument for more troops assumes that there is an American military solution to the disintegration of civil authority and living conditions in Iraq. It will be extraordinarily difficult to convince Americans of that, as many of our own military leaders have warned that American troops in Iraq are both a target and an escalating grievance that aids in the recruitment of new terrorists.
George W. Bush's Utopian rationale of a future Iraq being a luminous bright spot leading to a widespread adoption of democracy in the Middle East has proven to be pure fantasy. Even the some of the neocons who dreamed up this rationale are now attacking the Bush Administration for incompetence in carrying it out.
Even the more cynically viewed justification for our presence in Iraq--preserving the oil supply--has proven to be a failure. Iraq now produces far less oil than it did while Hussein was in power, and all of us who drive know that gas prices are far higher than they were when Hussein was in power.
The cost of our efforts in Iraq appear to be on course to pass $1 trillion in the not too distant future. Total eventual costs of $2 trillion or more are far from impossible. Nor is it impossible that the total deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, now over 3,000, will eventually pass the 58,200 total for our misguided efforts in Vietnam.
In 1758, the colonial leadership of Pennsylvania was made up of Quakers who were religiously committed to a no-war policy with the Indians. But enough Indian tribes made clear their determination to fight that the no-war policy was not tenable. Ultimately, every Quaker in a high ranking position in state government chose to submit his resignation to allow a war to be fought without their participation in it.
The ideological beliefs of the Bush Administration are akin to religious beliefs. They are fundamentally not subject to proof and are based on faith in the validity of the ideology. They are an obstacle to getting much actually accomplished in Iraq.
In an ideal world, Bush and Cheney would submit their resignations and allow new decision makers to take over, just as the Pennsylvania Quakers did. This will not happen of course, and Americans and Iraqis will continue to die in large numbers because of unrealistic goals and incompetent leadership.
Congress has no choice but to assert itself, and it is great to see it is finally doing it. Only a limitation of financial and troop commitment can supply the discipline to end our ongoing tragedy in Iraq. The belief that our governmental vision for Iraq is a sacred cause, worth any amount of governmental funds that can be beaten or cajoled out of Congress, is a belief that will only lead to an endless series of tragic outcomes.
Bush and Cheney have had their way, and they have failed. It is time for Congress to push them out of the way, create manageable objectives, and get our troops home in a prompt and reasonable manner.