Debra J. Saunders

How is America supposed to win the war in Iraq when so many partisans in Washington -- including high-profile Democrats who voted for the October 2002 war resolution -- aren't doing everything in their power to make sure America prevails in Iraq?

 Many Washington Dems seem to have devoted the last month instead to answering the question: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

 The answer is: Not U.S. troops. The "phased deployment" crowd -- to use Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's euphemism for cut-and-run -- does not seem to understand that when elected officials vote in favor of a war resolution, they assume a solemn responsibility to the troops who carry out their mandate. To wit, Congress is not supposed to follow a war vote with actions that undermine the war effort.

 Yet that is exactly what Feinstein, who voted for the war resolution, is poised to do today as she introduces an amendment calling on President Bush to set up a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops starting this year. Feinstein's cosponsors are fellow Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Ken Salazar of Colorado -- although it should be noted that Levin and Reed voted against the Iraq war resolution, while Salazar was not in the Senate in 2002.

 Feinstein explained in a press release that, after three years in Iraq, "an open-ended commitment is no longer sustainable." Sunday, she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "Three years and three months into a mission that was supposed to take 30 or 40 days. That isn't cutting and running."

 Partisan is the only word that can explain this measure. For one thing, the amendment is not even remotely necessary. Bush has said that he wants to pull out U.S. troops as fast as he can. Feinstein reminded Blitzer that Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie had "essentially set a timetable" when he told Blitzer the week before that there would probably be fewer than 100,000 multinational troops in Iraq by the end of the year, and that the overwhelming majority could be gone by mid-2008.

 When both Iraqi leaders and the Bushies want to withdraw troops by 2008, if it is at all doable, why offer an amendment calling for withdrawal? The only reason: She wants her party to get the credit for ending the war, or she wants to rob the other party of the credit for ending the war.

 The cost for this rank partisanship, should the amendment pass? American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are fighting an enemy that believes America has no political backbone. Measures such as Feinstein's reinforce the belief that killing Americans pays off -- as Osama bin Laden concluded after U.S. troops essentially fled Somalia.

 Feinstein has argued that a timetable would scare the Iraqis into making things work. If she is wrong, however, her measure instead would serve to undermine confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, and thereby hinder efforts to stabilize a war-torn nation.

 I want to be clear on this. Once a senator votes for a war resolution, the senator has not renounced his or her duty to criticize bad policies, nor does the senator forfeit the right to change his or her mind.

 The senator, however, does have a responsibility to fight for victory -- so that the troops who die abroad do not die in vain, or endure more fire because Washington pandered to voters' anxiety. They are risking their lives, and Feinstein doesn't even have the honesty to use the term troop withdrawal.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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