- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

The level of congressional irresponsibility in handling the war is growing, as lawmakers read the polls and look for tough-sounding talking points to camouflage defeatism. Most of the activity is in the Senate, where Democratic presidential aspirants, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Joseph Biden, seem to be competing with one another to see who can be more strident in their criticisms of Iraq’s democratically elected government and who can be more bellicose in making threats to withdraw from Iraq.

While there are certainly legitimate criticisms to be made of the performance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he is our ally, and it is counterproductive for members of Congress to publicly complain about the Maliki government instead of focusing on the real enemy: the Sunni and Shi’ite terrorists plaguing that country. The Bush administration, unfortunately, has also gotten into the act, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying that Mr. Maliki’s government was on “borrowed time” — language that can only embolden the enemies of the United States and Iraq.

But when it comes to beating up on the elected government of Iraq, the Democratic leaders this week are Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. On Wednesday, Mr. Biden, joined by longtime Republican war critic Sen. Chuck Hagel, unveiled his latest broadside against the war effort, a resolution of disapproval for President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. Another presidential aspirant, Sen. Christopher Dodd, complains that a resolution of disapproval doesn’t go far enough. He proposes “capping” the number of troops in Iraq and requiring that the president get congressional approval before adding more troops. That would mean that, if an arbitrary cap didn’t permit Mr. Bush to send an adequate number of troops to protect Iraqi civilians from the gangsters in Baghdad or prevent al Qaeda terrorists from planting more roadside bombs in Anbar province, the president would have to go on bended knee to Capitol Hill to beg for more money.

Mrs. Clinton, however, stole the show by triangulating. She endorsed 1) more troops for Afghanistan; 2) Mr. Biden’s resolution of disapproval; 3) limiting U.S. troop levels to 135,000, which would effectively doom any effort to defeat the sectarian terrorist violence in Baghdad or Anbar; and 4) a list of demands — not for the terrorist enemy, but for Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki.

Mrs. Clinton’s demarche says that if Washington and Baghdad fail to disarm militias, reach agreement on oil-revenue sharing and amend the Iraqi constitution in ways that satisfy her, among other demands, the United States would cut off funding for the Iraqi security forces. That proposal is indistinguishable from capitulation.

That’s the Democrats’ strategy. While some want to cut off funding entirely, the mainstream view in the party favors an approach that would impose on the Iraqi government an ongoing series of benchmarks it cannot possibly meet and using its failure as a pretext for “redeploying” — a nice word for abandoning Iraq, while blaming the Bush administration for the ensuing bloodbath.

It would be hard to imagine a more irresponsible approach to take when so many lives — American and Iraqi — are at stake. Even worse, it would pave the way to a regional Middle East maelstrom.

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