Only a senator with levels of vanity off the charts would be indifferent to the message being sent, and the new media support for that message. ~Hugh Hewitt
Right. 10,000 Web denizens and a few hundred bloggers simply must influence the half-dozen or so anti-“surge” GOP Senators. The only way that this doesn’t happen is if the Senators in question are excessively vain and self-important, unlike, say, the bloggers who started this whole charade.
In addition to the Senators’ vanity, there is also their supposed willingness to give “encouragment” to the enemy, or, to put it as Hewitt would, their willingness to betray our soldiers and commit a kind of treason. How do we know that this non-binding resolution would “encourage” the enemy? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Gen. Petraeus said so, and therefore no more thought needs to go into it. Curious, isn’t it, how these are the same kinds of people who moaned and whined about a veritable coup d’etat and a conspiracy against the government last year when six retired generals made loud noises about Rumsfeld’s failures on the job and called for his resignation? These war supporters had no interest in the expertise and experience of those retired generals–plus, the generals were meddling in the business of the civilian government, and this represented a threat to our entire way of life! That was the sort of hysterical stupidity that suited prominent war supporters last year. This year, the mantra is, “Follow the General.” Anything to back up the administration line on Iraq will do.
Where the retired generals were supposedly threatening civilian control of the government by calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation, Hewitt et al. are essentially insisting that the Senate should govern its own proceedings according to one answer from Gen. Petraeus–they are demanding that the civilians in Congress take their direction from an active-duty field commander. To say that this injures republican government would be a gross understatement.
It is reasonable to say that the Senate should take Gen. Petraeus’ statements into consideration when deliberating on this or any other war-related measure. If the “surge” made sense to more people in the country and in Congress, and if the proposal seemed to have a reasonable chance of success and a clear, realisable goal, there would probably be no question about passing resolutions to oppose it. It is because the proposal is such a widely reviled one and one considered unlikely to succeed because of key problems (i.e., the Iraqi government is Sadr’s puppet and pursues narrow sectarian goals in the prosecution of a civil war) that we have reached this impasse. Now Hewitt & Co. insist that the Senate suspend its duties of oversight and policymaking (not that they were preparing to do anything terribly bold or meaningful anyway) based on one sentence from a general.
It is absurd to say that the Senators must defer to his judgement in all things because he is the theater commander and because he believes, predictably, that any resolution against the “surge” would send the “wrong” message. No offense to Gen. Petraeus, who has obviously been one of the smartest and most successful commanders in the entire war, but it is inevitable that he, as the new commander charged with executing this plan, would seek to discourage any opposition to that plan. His statements should be taken into account, but they cannot be treated as if they were the final word on the matter.
The main trouble in all this is that the “wrong” message the Senate is trying to send (i.e., Americans are sick of this war and want to bring it to a close as soon as possible) happens to be the truth. For almost four years, Mr. Bush has used this “let the commanders on the ground decide” dodge as a way of avoiding responsibility for the obvious inadequacies of planning and preparation on the part of his administration. Hewitt and friends would have the Senate adopt the same pathetic attitude of handing off all real decisionmaking to the executive and the military commanders. They would be fools to heed him and his little band of protesters.