President George W. Bush’s ill-advised “surge and accelerate” plan for Iraq lacks any real public or political support before the President even announces it but it doesn’t really matter if he has support of not. If Bush wants to escalate the war, he has the power to do it.
With the exception of pro-war Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, support on Capitol Hill is non-existent while military experts call the plan “dangerous” and “failed.”
But some of the sharpest criticism comes from members of Bush’s own party.
“My conclusion was that it would be a mistake to send more troops to Baghdad. I think the sectarian violence there requires a political, not a military, solution,” says Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.).
“I also have not seen a clarity of mission, and I think that’s the greatest weakness that we have right now,” says New Mexico Republican Congressman Heather Wilson, an Air Force vet and member of the House Intelligence Committee. “We’re talking about goals in lofty terms that are not vital American national interests. American troops should only go in harm’s way to protect America’s vital interests.”
Pentagon sources say the Joint Chiefs of Staff continue to oppose the plan. They also are concerned over Bush’s firing of the two top military commanders in the Iraq campaign because they had the audacity to say the President was wrong.
Among 2008 Presidential contenders, only McCain supports the surge. In fact, McCain wants more troops than Bush and for a longer period of time, saying only a total commitment can win the war.
But while members of Congress overwhelmingly oppose Bush’s plan, there really isn’t much they can do about it.
As newly-elected Kansas Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Boyda told ABC News last week: Bush “is the commander in chief, Charlie. We don’t get that choice. Congress doesn’t make that decision.”
Short of cutting off funding for the Iraq war effort, there isn’t really much Congress can do if Bush decided to send in more troops in defiance of public opinion and dwindling political support. Bush exercises what he sees as his unlimited powers as a “wartime President” and, to date, no one has been able to stop him.
Reports David E. Sanger in today’s New York Times:
The call for an increase in troops would also put Mr. Bush in direct confrontation with the leaders of the new Democratic Congress, who said in a letter to the president on Friday that the United States should move instead toward a phased withdrawal of American troops, to begin in the next four months.
Mr. Bush is expected to make the plan public in coming days, probably in a speech to the country on Wednesday that will cast the initiative as a joint effort by the United States and Iraq to reclaim control of Baghdad neighborhoods racked by sectarian violence. Officials said Mr. Bush was likely to be vague on the question of how long the additional American forces would remain on the streets of Baghdad. But they said American planners intended for the push to last for less than a year.
A crucial element of the plan would include more than doubling the State DepartmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reconstruction efforts throughout the country, an initiative intended by the administration to signal that the new strategy would emphasize rebuilding as much as fighting.
But previous American reconstruction efforts in Iraq have failed to translate into support from the Iraqi population, and some Republicans as well as the new Democratic leadership in Congress have questioned if a troop increase would do more than postpone the inevitable and precarious moment when Iraqi forces have to stand on their own.
Congress has the power to halt the increases by cutting off money for Mr. BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposals. But some Democrats are torn about whether to press ahead with such a move for fear that it will appear that they are not supporting the troops.
But even if the new Democratic leadership of Congress tries to show some balls by tightening the purse strings on the war, Bush could fight back with his veto pen.
Reports Tom Raumof The Associated Press:
With Iraq overshadowing everything, any attempts by lawmakers to cut funds or intrude on Bush’s war-making decisions could invite veto talk. Bush is set to announce a new Iraq strategy this week in a speech expected to call for more troops and aid.
Democratic leaders have not expressly threatened to use Congress’ purse-string powers to alter the course of the war. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., were quick to signal that the days of a free hand are over for the Republican president.
In the November elections, voters “rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end,” Pelosi said. For Reid, “no issue in this country is more important than finding an end to this intractable war.”
The odds on vetoes always have favored presidents, no matter which party controls Congress. There have been 2,551 presidential vetoes since George Washington became president in 1789. Only 106 have been overridden.
But at least one Democrat thinks there might be a possible solution:
Reports Thomas Ferraro of Reuters:
The Congress could possibly limit the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by forcing President George W. Bush to seek approval from lawmakers for additional deployments, a top Democratic senator said on Friday.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin said that was just one of several options before Democrats, who took over control of both the House and Senate this week from Bush’s Republicans.
Top Democrats, including Durbin, said the party would not seek to cut funding of troops already there because that could undermine their safety.
But with Bush considering an increase in the number of U.S. forces in Iraq, Durbin told reporters he and fellow Democrats have discussed trying to cap the number there as a potential option.
Asked how, Durbin said, “It could be legislation that requires the president to come for congressional approval for troops over a certain level.”
“I’m not telling you that is where we will end up, but there are a lot of things on the table,” Durbin said after a closed-door meeting of fellow Democrats preparing for the new 110th Congress that convened on Thursday.
To pass such legislation in the Senate, Democrats would need the support of a number of Republicans. Democrats control the Senate, holding 51 of 100 seats. But 60 votes would be needed to end a possible procedural roadblock.