A serious legislative body would not be arguing over degrees of disapproval anyway, but about the elements of three or four alternate plans that might actually change our course in Iraq, something they all say they desire. But instead of making a contribution to thinking through how the war should be either prosecuted or liquidated, they negotiate language that provides precisely the amount of distancing a senator might need as political insulation should the surge either succeed or fail.
Words. The Democrats are all in favor of "redeployment" and pretend that this is an alternative plan. But the word redeployment is meaningless. It simply means changing the position of our soldiers and, implicitly, changing their mission. But unless you're saying where you're redeploying to, and with what mission, you've said nothing. It's a statement of opposition, yet another expression of disapproval of the current strategy -- much like an empty, nonbinding congressional resolution -- until you say whether you want to redeploy to Kansas or Kurdistan.
Words. Consider "surge." It carries an air of energy, aggression and even hope. That, in fact, is a fairly good reflection of Petraeus' view of it -- not just more troops but a change in the rules of engagement, with more latitude to fight, less political interference by the Iraqi government and a much tougher attitude toward foreign, especially Iranian, agents in Iraq.
The opposition prefers ``escalation,'' as featured, for example, in the anti-surge commercial that aired in certain markets during the Super Bowl. The main reason for using escalation, of course, is that it is a Vietnam word. And the more Vietnam words you can use in discussing Iraq, the more you've won the debate without having to make an argument.
The problem with this battle over words is that it is entirely irrelevant to what is happening in Iraq. There will be real troops on real missions regardless of what label they are given. The country is engaged in a serious debate about exactly what strategy to pursue to either prosecute the war or withdraw in an orderly fashion. The Senate might consider putting such a debate on its agenda.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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