Political wind

House vote prompted Iran to take Brits hostage

Measure undermines Presidential authority and America’s foreign policy

Friday, the House of Representatives passed 218-212 a resolution that would mandate the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq no later than August of 2008. That same day, 15 British sailors were taken hostage by Iran. While the British government obviously hopes the Iranian government will release them, should it decide to use military force against Iran, it could normally count on the US military’s support.

These are not normal times.

President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, if it reaches his desk after Senate action with the withdrawal date mandates intact. Yet the measure passed by the House Friday included that the President must obtain Congressional approval prior to using military force against Iran.

The Wall Street Journal summed it up this morning this way:

As with the 1979 hostage crisis, how Britain and the rest of the civilized world respond in the early days of the crisis will determine how long it lasts. Britain has already demanded the safe and immediate return of its personnel; they will have to make clear that its foreign policy will not be held hostage to the mullahs.

That does not require a resort to military options while diplomacy still has a chance to gain the sailors’s release. Saturday’s unanimous vote by the U.N. Security Council was also welcome, even if the new sanctions continue to be far too weak. Serious sanctions would target the country’s supply of refined gasoline, much of which is imported.

It is worth recalling, however, that Iran was at its most diplomatically pliant after the United States sank much of Tehran’s navy after Iran tried to disrupt oil traffic in the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s. Regimes that resort to force the way Iran does tend to be respecters of it. It is also far from certain that Western military strikes against Revolutionary Guards would move the Iranian people to rally to their side: Iranians know only too well what their self-anointed leaders are capable of.

Most important, the world should keep in mind that Iran has undertaken this latest military aggression while it is still a conventional military power. That means that Britain and the U.S. can still respond today with the confidence that they maintain military superiority. That confidence will vanish the minute Iran achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. Who knows what the revolutionaries in Tehran will then be capable of.

It is not mere conjecture to state Friday’s House vote did far more than signal the al Qaeda and insurgents in Iraq to just hold on, August of next year and the November 2008 election are coming. Last night, I heard one talking head cite what surely is within the Democrat Party’s latest talking points, that the taking of British hostages is, “One more example of why we need to get out of Iraq, so that our troops are not subjected to this.”

The House’s vote Friday, passed by the ‘yea’ votes of 216 Democrats and 2 Republicans, told the mullahs in Iran to do more for they are winning the War on Terror. While not specifically named as an enemy in the September 2001 authorization for the use of military force, Iran has waged war against the United States since 1979.

The House’s vote is a clear example of why the framers of our Constitution vested the Executive branch with the authority to conduct foreign policy. The framers knew wars were won or lost and while Congress can declare war, there is no provision in the Constitution for it to withdraw that authorization. They can de-fund war; they cannot undeclare it.

Friday’s House vote sent Iran 218 white flags signaling they at least are willing to surrender.

Washington Post slams House mandating Iraq withdrawal

Today, the editors at the Washington Post slammed the measure before the House of Representatives that would mandate a timetable for withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. When you remove their criticism of the $20 billion in pork spending from their editorial entitled “Retreat and Butter: Are Democrats in the House voting for farm subsidies or withdrawal from Iraq?” here is what the editors said:

TODAY THE House of Representatives … will be voting to require that all U.S. combat troops leave Iraq by August 2008, regardless of what happens during the next 17 months or whether U.S. commanders believe a pullout at that moment protects or endangers U.S. national security, not to mention the thousands of American trainers and Special Forces troops who would remain behind.

The Democrats claim to have a mandate from voters to reverse the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq… The legislation… could shape the future of the Middle East for decades.

Congress can and should play a major role in determining how and when the war ends. Political benchmarks for the Iraqi government are important, provided they are not unrealistic or inflexible. Even dates for troop withdrawals might be helpful, if they are cast as goals rather than requirements — and if the timing derives from the needs of Iraq, not the U.S. election cycle. The Senate’s version of the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan contains nonbinding benchmarks and a withdrawal date that is a goal; that approach is more likely to win broad support and avoid a White House veto.

As it is, House Democrats are pressing a bill that has the endorsement of MoveOn.org but excludes the judgment of the U.S. commanders who would have to execute the retreat the bill mandates… while provoking a constitutional fight with the White House that could block the funding to equip troops in the field. Democrats who want to force a withdrawal should vote against war appropriations. They should not seek… an unconditional retreat that the majority does not support.

In other words, the Washington Post does not think Congress should mandate that we “PULL… OUT… NOW” from Iraq. And they think withdrawal should be based upon the best estimate of those leading the fight on the ground and what is best for the Iraqi people. Medea Benjamin will be disappointed.

Congressman John Murtha standing with Code Pinkers

It will be interesting to see how Congressman John Murtha votes seeing how he so often claims to defer to the opinions of the military commanders in the field.