- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Senate’s 81-0 vote on Friday to confirm Lt. Gen. David Petraeus as commander is just the latest sign of the intellectual incoherence of that chamber’s approach to Iraq. Right now, anti-war lawmakers are afraid to act on their convictions and cut off funding right away, so they seem to have opted for a two-track strategy: on the one hand, approving some funds for the war so they can’t be accused of hurting the troops that they claim to support, on the other, denouncing President Bush’s policies at every opportunity regardless of whether such actions project weakness or embolden the enemy.

The unanimous vote for Gen. Petraeus — a thoughtful advocate of President Bush’s efforts to increase troop levels in Baghdad — comes as many of these same lawmakers prepare to vote for a resolution which will likely come before the Senate this week which will denounce what Gen. Petraeus and President Bush are attempting to do: win the war. Passage of such a resolution (which appears to have overwhelming support) is utterly nonsensical if senators are serious about defeating the enemy. But such an action makes perfect sense for cynical politicians who have calculated that failure is certain and want to be in the most politically advantageous position after the United States is defeated in Iraq.

The 81 senators who voted to approve the nomination of Gen. Petraeus (an excellent choice) include some of the harshest critics of the war and in particular Mr. Bush’s “surge” of troops to Baghdad. Such prominent Democrats as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden; Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton; Sen. Christopher Dodd; Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Barack Obama and Republican war critics like Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Warner voted to confirm Gen. Petraeus. But during his testimony before Mr. Levin’s committee last week, Gen. Petraeus made clear his disdain for ideas that are very much in vogue in Washington these days: getting out of Iraq altogether, or the current favorite of the Democratic leadership: passing resolutions critical of the war.

When Sen. John McCain asked what would happen if we were to leave Iraq, Gen. Petraeus pointed to “the very real possibility of involvement of countries from elsewhere in the region, around Iraq, entering Iraq to take sides with one or the other groups.” He added that there “is the possibility, certainly, of an international terrorist organization truly getting a grip on some substantial piece of Iraq.” In response to questions from Mr. McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Gen. Petraeus added that resolutions of disapproval for the war would be unhelpful to American troop morale and would encourage our enemies in Iraq.

Perhaps the most absurd piece of political spin last week was the P.R. campaign to depict Mr. Hagel as “courageous” for his strident criticism of President Bush and the war in Iraq. After voting to authorize the use of force in Iraq in late 2002, Mr. Hagel has rarely missed an opportunity to heap scorn on the war; nor does it take a tremendous amount of courage to take an anti-war position when polls show overwhelming opposition to the president’s policies. Mr. Hagel’s vote for Gen. Petraeus suggests that, like most Senate Democrats, the Nebraska Republican is also triangulating on Iraq.

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