I'm not sure if this has been discussed, but Russ Feingold has begun a series of speeches on our flawed national security policy. The speech given last night highlights the usual criticisms. I think what makes this speech unique is that Feingold offers new counterpoints to the Bush arguments. I have highlighted a few choice remarks below the fold for anyone interested.
Bush has consistently argued that Iraqi troops become more reliable and effective with each passing engagement. This argument infers that, over time, the Iraqi security forces will be more capable to defeat the insurgency. Feingold offers a great counter to this one sided argument, as well as the "fight them abroad" line:
Just recently, President Bush told the country that "with each engagement, Iraqi soldiers grow more battle-hardened and their officers grow more experienced." Unfortunately, the same is true of the foreign fighters. Iraq has become a prime on-the-job training ground for jihadists from around the world - terrorists who are getting experience in overcoming U.S. countermeasures, experience in bombing, and experience in urban warfare - they may well be getting a better education in terrorism than jihadists received at al Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan.
And they don't just have skills - they now have contacts. They are building new, transnational networks, making the most of Al Qaeda's new model of supporting loosely affiliated franchise-type organizations. Press reports suggest that the CIA is calling this emerging threat the "class of '05 problem." Mr. President, all of us, on both sides of the aisle, should be thinking about how to ensure that there is no similar class of '06.
It would be nice to believe that these terrorists will be swept into Iraq only to be annihilated by U.S. forces. But that kind of "roach motel" approach to fighting is hardly a strategic vision. At its best, it is wishful thinking - and more wishful thinking is just what our Iraq policy and our strategy for fighting terrorism do not need. I agree wholeheartedly with the President that we must not waver in our commitment to defeating the terrorist networks that wish to do us harm. And I know, as he must know, that these networks exist around the world. Fighting terrorists in Baghdad does not mean that we won't have to fight them elsewhere, and, sadly, we need only look at the headlines over the past few weeks to find the terrible evidence of this hard fact.
Feingold has challenged the administration to come up with a timetable for Iraq, to which the administration has argued that a concrete timetable only strengthens the insurgency because they know we are leaving. Feingold offers a refreshing common sense retort to this angle:
Finally, Mr. President, I want to talk about the most common criticism leveled at anyone who invokes the phrase "timetable" in talking about our military deployment in Iraq. The charge goes something like this: if the insurgents know when we plan to go, they will simply hunker down and lie in wait for the time when we are no longer present in large numbers, and then they will attack.
Well, Mr. President, if that were the insurgents' plan, why wouldn't they cease all attacks now, lay low, let everyone believe that stability has been achieved, and spring up again once the security presence in Iraq is dramatically reduced? If we really believe the argument that any kind of timetable is a "lifeline" to the insurgents, then why wouldn't they try to induce us to throw them that lifeline?
We cannot know all the reasons behind the choices made by the diverse elements waging Iraq's insurgency. But one thing is clear: ultimately, we will withdraw from Iraq, and it will not be secret when we do. Does the Administration believe that the insurgents will be entirely defeated at that point? Is it really our policy to stay in Iraq until every last insurgent and every last terrorist is defeated? Recently Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld made news when he said that the insurgency could well last a decade or more, and that ultimately, "foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency," rather it is going to be defeated by the Iraqis themselves. I think this analysis makes good sense - especially given the fact that our very presence in Iraq is helping to recruit more foreign jihadists every day. But the Secretary's candor made waves, because for long, costly months we lacked clarity on this critical point regarding just what the remaining U.S. military mission is in Iraq. Is it to defeat the insurgency, or is it to give the Iraqis the tools to do that themselves?
This guy is a consistent breath of fresh air. If anyone wants to read the full text look here. Keep it up Russ!