Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Senate Resolutions and the War in Iraq (UPDATED)
Posted by: McQ on Friday, January 26, 2007

I just finished reading through the 72 page transcript of the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus given before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week during his confirmation hearing. It is fascinating for many reasons. For instance, of the 17 Senators who were there to question the nominee, one had no questions but used the full 8 minutes allotted to make a political statement. That would be Hillary Clinton.

Anyway, I plan to blog much more on various themes and questions which ran through this hearing, but the first I found of interest was the discussion of the pending resolutions various members of the Senate are writing which will oppose the surge and strategy.

Sen. McCain touched on it first:
SEN. MCCAIN: Suppose that we send your — you additional troops, and we tell those troops that, we support you, but we are convinced that you cannot accomplish your mission, and we do not support the mission we are sending you on. What effect does that have on the morale of your troops?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, it would not be a beneficial effect, sir. Obviously, a commander would like to go forward with as much flexibility as he can achieve. I was assured yesterday by the secretary of Defense, by the way, that if we need additional assets, my job is to ask for them. If they're not provided in some case, my job is to tell my boss the risk involved in accomplishing the mission without the assets that are required.
Fair enough. Petraeus feels that anything which the Senate or more broadly, the Congress (the “we” to which McCain is referring) which purports not to “support the mission” wouldn’t have a “beneficial effect.” The good General avoids the “morale effect” question (which was addressed later by Petraus by saying it was "good", not outstanding, but "good", but pointing out that re-enlistment, especially among combat units has been outstanding).

Next to address the question (after Senators Kennedy and Inhofe had asked their questions) was Sen. Joe Lieberman. But he approached it from a different angle:
SEN. LIEBERMAN: You also said in response to a question from Senator McCain that adoption of a resolution of disapproval, which is contemplated by our colleagues and probably will be on the Senate floor — disapproval of the new way ahead in Iraq — would not, if I remember your words, have a beneficial effect on our troops in Iraq. But I want to ask you, what effect would Senate passage of a resolution of disapproval of this new way ahead that you embrace — what effect would it have on our enemies in Iraq?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Sir, as I stated in the opening statement, this is a test of wills, at the end of the day. And in that regard, speaking purely as a military commander, if confirmed — albeit one who, frankly, does understand enormously and treasures the value of free and open debate, free speech, who has put himself in harm's way to protect those great features of our democracy — nonetheless, having said that, a commander in such an endeavor would obviously like the enemy to feel that there's no hope.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And a resolution — a Senate-passed resolution of disapproval for this new strategy in Iraq would give the enemy some encouragement, some feeling that — well, some clear expression that the American people were divided.

GEN. PETRAEUS: That's correct, sir.
Now that’s not exactly an unexpected answer, but I want to touch on a particular phrase which Petraeus used over and over in his testimony, namely, “this is a test of wills”. That is a critical point and Petraeus emphasizes the value of unity in this sort of struggle by pointing out that it is to our advantage to be unified because it helps create the belief among our enemies that there is no hope for eventual victory.

We speak often of the psychological aspects of war. This is one of the more critical psychological aspects, especially when contemplating a long-war. If you can convince your enemy he has no hope of success, you’ve planted a very important seed which will indeed germinate if you are able to show any success militarily. In fact, perhaps metastasize is a better word than germinate. It will eat away at his will to go on (going back to the “test of wills” meme).

So obviously, in terms of increasing chances for success, no matter how slim, it is “beneficial” for any such effort for there to be a unified approach backed by a unified people.

Sen. Susan Collins was the next to address the resolution controversy:
SEN. COLLINS: Finally, I have to comment on your answer to my very dear friend, Senator Lieberman, about the impact of a passage of a resolution and whether that would — I believe the words were "demonstrate to the enemy that the American people are divided."
General, the American people are not divided in support of our troops. The American people are not divided in wishing you all the success in the world, despite our disagreement with the strategy.

And I must say that the resolution that I've been working on with Senator Ben Nelson and Senator Warner is very clear in expressing support for our troops. And I don't think it's going to come as any surprise to the enemy that the American people are in fact deeply divided over this strategy. But nothing divides us in our common support of the brave men and women who are fighting in Iraq. And nothing divides us in our common support that we hope we're wrong and that this strategy is a success, and we wish you well as you undertake this very dangerous and difficult mission.
Collins attempts to articulate the rather dicey proposition that you can’t equate non-support for the mission with non-support for the troops. This is pretzel-logic. And I’ve argued this point many times.

We’re not talking a general philosophical discussion here. We’re talking about a particular war and a mission assigned by the Commander in Chief to the troops on the ground.

While I can appreciate the argument that you can support the troops by wanting them home or wanting them properly equipped or any of a number of other reasons, if you don’t support their mission then whatever support you do claim is qualified support. A bit like saying “we want you to look like a soldier, and we love you for being one, but we can’t support you acting like one it this instance”.

To most troops, that makes absolutely no sense ... trust me.

On the other side of this argument is the question of who should have the last word on strategy. Someone has to be in charge and make decisions. As I've always understood it, that's the role of the Commander in Chief as it pertains to strategy.

Let me relate my point back to my service in the military. When we put an operation together, based on the guidance of the commander, we put various courses of action together for him to review. He would then make a decision. If we, as a staff, disagreed, we were perfectly authorized to argue the point, and, I can promise you we did. Every now and then we won our point. But at some point the commander would end debate and say, “that’s the plan”. At that point, we all saluted, said yes sir and we supported it with everything we had. The one thing that I never once saw among staffs or subordinate commanders who’d argued for a different course, was grousing about the bosses decision. The debate was done, the decision was made and it was our job to get behind the plan and execute it.

And herein lies the dilemma which faces us today.

One side feels the debate is done, the plan is made and it is the job of the nation (and Congress) to get behind it and support it.

Those on the other side, as implied by Susan Collins and later stated by John Warner, believes that the debate is still going on. In fact, skipping ahead, this is how Warner described what he was offering:
But in defense of those colleagues — and I am one, and I accept full responsibility for what I did yesterday in leading an effort with my distinguished colleagues Senator Collins and Ben Nelson of this committee in putting forth a resolution, but we did so in response to the president's comments to the nation on the 10th of this month. And I read from his transcript: "In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on the new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we'll make them. If circumstances change, we'll adjust. Honorable people have different views and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to the scrutiny of all involved and have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed."

Since we just put in our resolution late yesterday — and we did so not to have a confrontation with the president, but following his advice, we had some recommendations which he may or may not accept.

They were expressed by heartfelt beliefs held by the three of us and, we think, other members of the Senate. So I feel that we have performed our duty as we see it and that time will tell.
Now if you accept this argument as legitimate (and I can certainly see how someone could honestly interpret President Bush’s comments as an invitation to debate), does a resolution which essentially does nothing but condemn a strategy without offering a viable alternative fulfill the purpose of his invitation?

My answer would be “no”. Essentially Bush’s invitation says “if you have improvements” to suggest, they’ll be all ears. Condemnation and non-support hardly address improvements, do they?

Note too, that Bush says “if circumstances change, we’ll adjust”. Folks that’s the commander saying, “the decision is made, now execute the plan” while ensuring “branches and sequels” (adjustments) are available if the “circumstances change”. But to this point, given the new mission, no circumstances have changed.

Lastly, Bush again points out that those who wish to criticize (their right) also have a responsibility to “explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed."

We’ve had a whole lot of the former and little to none of the latter. Unless the resolutions present a path more likely to succeed, I have to agree with Petraeus that they’re not beneficial and will indeed grant hope to an enemy that we badly need to deprive of all hope by presenting a unified country until we have the metrics to assess whether the new strategy is working.

Frankly I don't think that's too much to ask.

UPDATE: Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture makes basically the same argument. Michael Wade, of the same blog, offers a bit of recent history to demonstrate how times have changed.

UPDATE II: Mark Steyn on Republican Senators and resolutions:
HH: Well, here’s a cultural reference that a lot of GOP Senators don’t seem to understand. It’s the war, stupid. Mark Steyn, I understand Biden and the Democrats cannot be rescued from defeatism, but are you amazed or revolted, or both, at the round heels in the Republican caucus.

MS: Yes, I think in fact, this is far more dangerous than either the hysterical left, or the obviously defeatist Senators such as Ted Kennedy. I think these sort of wise old birds like John Warner on the Republican side, who think that they’re somehow crafting a kind of compromise position that the entire nation can unite around. For a start, I don’t think this is their…I think it’s a Constitutional affront, that this is not what they should be doing, micromanaging the degree of aggression with which you wage a war. I think that’s disgusting, and almost certainly doomed to fail, and people like John Warner should be called on it when they go that route. So I think that’s a disgraceful thing they’re doing.
Compromise and legislators go together like peanut butter and jelly. Some one ought to tell them that not everything is subject too (or appropriate for) compromise.

Oh ... they are telling them.
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Petraeus’ analysis as to the nature of the battle is absolutely correct. Once an opponent believes that he cannot win, his morale is sapped and he is doomed! Unfortunately, the Islamofascists seem to have convinced a majority of the Congress that, despite the strength of our military and the size of our resources, we cannot win....and the result is all too predictable....and self-fulfilling!
 
Written By: RAZ
URL: http://
Those supporting the non-binding, non-supportive resolutions are nothing more that pandering candy-a$$ weasels.

If they really dont support Petraeus’s mission, then they shouldn’t be putting him in a position to do just that. Secondly, if they really dont support the mission, they should de-fund it.

...pathetic gutless wonders.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
There’s a big hole in your analogy - namely, the President is not the commander of the US Congress or the US Population. So, there’s no requirement for us to salute him and line up behind the plan.

Second, it isn’t the mission that is being criticized, it is the likelihood of the plan accomplishing the mission that is being criticized. There’s a difference. Now, the critique is still vulnerable to the accusation that there is no alternative being presented, but that’s a different point.

Also, I’ll submit that I don’t think the President has any idea what the mission actually is, anyway. What are the exact objectives? The abolishment of the militias? (right...) The end of sectarian killing? (would ethnic separation be an ok solution to this? Splitting the country?) The reduction of killing to some defined level? (How much is ok?) Iraqi society/economy advanced to the level of Kazakhstan? Afghanastan? China? Belgium? The UK? There’s essentially no discussion of any measurable objective that I’ve seen, and without that, I fail to see how anyone is supposed to come up with an alternative plan to accomplish an undefined goal.
 
Written By: Larry
URL: http://
For a while it has seemed that the majority of the military have thought the Iraq mission would succeed (yes, the meaning of that has become vague), even when the military leadership seemed poor. Clearly Rumsfeld could run an invasion, but not an occupation. Now we have a guy in Petraeus that seems to have a clue in how to fight an insurgency, and Sen. Warner is saying it is time to give up. What is going on? I find it hard to believe that for Warner it is just about reelection.
 
Written By: stuartl
URL: http://

Tests of Wills? Do what??

Look, competitions like Chicken, who-blinks-first, and Russian Roulette are all tests of wills too.

But none of those tests of wills are the basis for any sound military strategy I am aware of, when we are the invaders and they are the invaded.

Test of wills....good Lord....
 
Written By: Rick Day
URL: http://goplobby.org
There’s a big hole in your analogy - namely, the President is not the commander of the US Congress or the US Population. So, there’s no requirement for us to salute him and line up behind the plan.
No one is suggesting that he is. The point is that unity, once the plan has been decided upon, is how you help defeat an enemy. Disunity and questioning the mission are, as Petraeus says, "not beneficial" to the accomplishment of the mission because it does indeed give an enemy which knows it can’t defeat you militarily hope that the defeat will come at the hands of our own citizens and thus they’ll win.

The purpose of the analogy is to point out when debate is appropriate and when unity is appropriate. The point being made is the time for debate has passed and these resolutions aren’t going to further it much less accomplish changing the decision. They’re simply political posturing.
What are the exact objectives? The abolishment of the militias? The end of sectarian killing? (would ethnic separation be an ok solution to this? Splitting the country?) The reduction of killing to some defined level?
Nope.

P 5 (Gen. Petraeus’ opening statement):
In response to the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, a new way ahead was developed and announced earlier this month. With implementation of this approach, the mission of Multinational Force- Iraq will be modified, making security of the population, particularly in Baghdad, and in partnership with Iraqi forces, the focus of the military effort.

For a military commander, the term "secure" is a clearly defined doctrinal task, meaning to gain control of an area or terrain feature and to protect it from the enemy. Thus, the tasks will be clear-cut, though difficult.
P 42:
GEN. PETRAEUS: It certainly is a change in mission, where the focus will be on — security of the population is the foremost objective and transition is not foremost. And really throughout much of 2006, transition has of course been — and, frankly, I thought for a very long time myself that that was the right approach to take as well. It was in the wake of the violence, of course, of the fall of this year and the winter that that has proven to be undermined as the way ahead.
Obviously protection of the population will mean, in turn, dealing with the militias, insurgents, terrorists and third-nation enablers.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
You’re conflating the plan with the mission. They are different. You can criticize one without impugning the other.
The purpose of the analogy is to point out when debate is appropriate and when unity is appropriate. The point being made is the time for debate has passed and these resolutions aren’t going to further it much less accomplish changing the decision. They’re simply political posturing.
When was the time for debate, again? During the hearing with the guy implementing the strategy seems like a decent place for one. And I hardly think 1 day of such is sufficient. Congress just started its new session, for goodness sake. Your analogy only works because there’s a defined command structure in it. There isn’t here, Congress is a co-equal branch, and the President serves me, not the other way around.
In response to the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, a new way ahead was developed and announced earlier this month. With implementation of this approach, the mission of Multinational Force- Iraq will be modified, making security of the population, particularly in Baghdad, and in partnership with Iraqi forces, the focus of the military effort.
For a military commander, the term "secure" is a clearly defined doctrinal task, meaning to gain control of an area or terrain feature and to protect it from the enemy. Thus, the tasks will be clear-cut, though difficult.
Ah, the enemy. Is that the Shiites or the Sunnis or Iran or just everyone? Because in a very serious way, the Population you are trying to protect IS also the enemy, since militias go home at night to their houses in that "area or terrain feature."
 
Written By: Larry
URL: http://
You’re conflating the plan with the mission. They are different. You can criticize one without impugning the other.
I’m not conflating anything. What I outlined is the military mission. The plan includes military, political and economic portions designed to give the Iraqi government the room and space necessary to legitimize itself in the eyes of its citizens. Thus the military portion of the plan is to "protect the population" while this goes on.

That is what is being criticized (unless your argument is that the "surge" is about something else).
When was the time for debate, again? During the hearing with the guy implementing the strategy seems like a decent place for one. And I hardly think 1 day of such is sufficient. Congress just started its new session, for goodness sake. Your analogy only works because there’s a defined command structure in it. There isn’t here, Congress is a co-equal branch, and the President serves me, not the other way around.
Seems to me the debate was what drove the election and the call was for a change.

Now they have that and they want something else. To date no one among the critics can describe what that "something else" is, but they know it isn’t whatever the administration wants. So the branch in charge of running a war made a decision and now we’re back to the "debate?" Yeah, right.

As for my analogy, it has nothing to do with any particular structure ... it has to do with a process that most successful people understand works and works well regardless of the venue.
Ah, the enemy. Is that the Shiites or the Sunnis or Iran or just everyone? Because in a very serious way, the Population you are trying to protect IS also the enemy, since militias go home at night to their houses in that "area or terrain feature."
You know this really isn’t that hard. What was the mission Petraeus laid out?

So wouldn’t the enemy be whomever (shia, sunni, insurgent, terrorist or militia member) threatened or violated the security of the population?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
But none of those tests of wills are the basis for any sound military strategy I am aware of, when we are the invaders and they are the invaded.

Test of wills....good Lord....
Put down the bong, Rick and step awayyyyy from the key board.

War is an Act of Violence to compell the Enemy to Our WILL...Hey MORON, war IS a test of wills! Read and THEN comment...

Oh and AQ aren’t INVADERS?

I apologize for using MORON...your ignorance and BDS is simply dismaying. I reckon if Gatewood Galbraith were President this would all be hunk-dory with you.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
This is like playing a card game for a high stake ante...except that we are a two-headed mustant playing.

One head is trying to play and bluff up a decent hand, while the other head keeps saying "we should fold. Oh man, we should fold."

The opposing player is very happy to know this of course.

 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
One head is trying to play and bluff...
Yup
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider