Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- The United States has fought many wars since 1941, but never again declared one. Abroad, no one declares war anymore either, perhaps because it has the anachronistic feel of an aristocratic challenge. Whatever the reason, today Congress doesn't declare war; it "authorizes" the "use of force."

In October 2002, both houses of Congress did exactly that with open eyes and large majorities. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who had access to all the relevant information at the time, said, "I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the threat posed to America by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is so serious that despite the risks -- and we should not minimize the risks -- we must authorize the president to take the necessary steps to deal with that threat."

Now, more than four years later, the Democrats want out of the resulting war. Most, such as Rep. John Murtha, want to do so for a simple reason: They think the war is lost. If you believe that, then getting out is the most reasonable and honorable and patriotic policy.

Congress has the power to do that by cutting off the funds. But Democrats will not, because it is politically dangerous. Instead, they are seeking other ways, clever ways. The House is pursuing a method, developed by Murtha and deemed "ingenious" by anti-war activist Tom Andrews of Win Without War, to impose a conditional cutoff of funds, ostensibly in the name of protecting the troops. Unless the troops are given the precise equipment, training and amount of rest Murtha stipulates -- no funds.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Murtha is not disingenuous enough to have concealed the real motives for these ostensibly pro-readiness, pro-troops conditions. He has chosen conditions he knows are impossible to meet -- ``We have analyzed this and we have come to the conclusion that it can't be done'' -- in order to make the continued prosecution of the war very difficult, if not impossible, for the commanders in the field.

But think of what that entails. It leaves the existing 130,000 troops out there without the reinforcements and tactical flexibility that the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, says he needs to win.

Of course, the Democrats believe that the war cannot be won. But if that's the case, they should order a withdrawal by cutting off the funds. They shouldn't micromanage the war in a way that will make winning impossible. That not only endangers the troops remaining in the field, it makes the Democrats' the-war-is-lost mantra a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Charles Krauthammer

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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