Murtha's ruse is so transparent that even Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who opposes the war, will not countenance it: "I think that sends the wrong message to our troops."
Levin has a different idea -- change the original October 2002 authorization. "We'll be looking at modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission," says Levin. "That is very different from cutting off funds."
While this idea is not as perverse as Murtha's, it is totally illogical. There is something exceedingly strange about authorizing the use of force -- except for combat. That is an oxymoron. Changing the language of authorization means -- if it means anything -- that Petraeus will have to surround himself with lawyers who will tell him, every time he wants to deploy a unit, whether he is ordering a legal "support" mission or an illegal "combat" mission.
If Levin wants to withdraw our forces from the civil war in the cities to more secure bases from which we can continue training and launching operations against al-Qaeda, he should present that to the country as an alternative to (or fallback after) the administration's troop surge. But to force it on our commanders through legalisms is simply to undermine their ability to fight the war occurring on the ground today.
Slowly bleeding our forces by defunding what our commanders think they need to win (the House approach) or rewording the authorization of the use of force so that lawyers decide what operations are to be launched (the Senate approach) is no way to fight a war. It is no way to end a war. It is a way to complicate the war and make it inherently unwinnable -- and to shirk the political responsibility for doing so.
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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