House Republicans will have no trouble sustaining the President's veto of a Democratic bill that shamefully ties critical troop funding to a series of arbitrary conditions and timelines, not to mention billions in unrelated spending. And while Democrats are now toying with idea of rationing support for our troops in the short-term while they find another way to force a withdrawal, that won't work either. What we need is a clean bill - an up or down vote on giving our troops the resources they need to succeed.
For the benefit of those who think "supporting the troops" means choking off their resources and undermining their mission, here is a brief primer on what a clean bill should look like.
First of all, a clean bill will not tie troop funding to a surrender date. Democrats repeatedly say the war in Iraq is "lost" and make the peculiar argument that America should instead "go after the terrorists where they are." They should listen to their House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who has admitted al Qaeda has a "very significant presence" in Iraq. He's right - al Qaeda's presence in Iraq is real and it is deadly, and it is foolish to think that withdrawing would somehow diminish the threat it poses.
There is no doubt that al Qaeda would benefit from America's failure. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has soberly reminded his colleagues that, over the last few years, every time "U.S. forces pulled back, al Qaeda rushed in" to fill the void. The long-term consequences of a retreat would be devastating for America's national security, fostering further regional chaos and providing fertile ground for al Qaeda to plot future attacks.
Democrats should also listen to the Washington Post's David Broder who lambasted the mistaken argument that "the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can succeed." In fact, General Petraeus has insisted that "military action is necessary to help improve security" in Iraq. Circling a surrender date on the calendar will do nothing to help our soldiers succeed in Iraq, and it will do nothing to further political and diplomatic progress.
Second, a clean bill will not tie troop funding to arbitrary conditions. Democrats claim they want "benchmarks." But benchmarks, by definition, are used to measure progress so that adjustments can be recommended periodically - based on results - to improve weaknesses and build upon strengths. What Democrats have actually authored and supported are a series of unrealistic conditions and timelines that choke off resources for our troops.
While General Petraeus calls al Qaeda "public enemy number one," Democrats have purposely written a bill that limits his ability to take them on. Last week the general described areas of Iraq like al Anbar province where Sunni Arab tribes are "linking arms" with American and Iraqi forces to combat al Qaeda. A clean bill will help American forces root out and disrupt terrorist forces - it will not handcuff our generals by putting arbitrary limits and conditions on their resources.
And lastly, a clean bill will not tie troop funding to excess spending. Democrats have openly admitted they "don't have the votes" to pass an emergency war supplemental, and so resorted to buying votes with billions in unrelated spending. The bill passed by the House and Senate was loaded with billions of dollars that has absolutely nothing to do with American troops or veterans, including money for production of salmon, cows, pigs, and dairy products.
But there's a better way. If Democratic leaders do the right thing - and put forward a bill that supports our troops without conditions, without surrender dates, and without all of the excess spending - Republicans will be there to support them.
Democrats claim they want to "change course," but they have failed to explain what they want to accomplish by retreating from the Global War on Terror. Given the nature of our enemy and the long-term consequences of failure, the only course Democrats have charted is the road to danger.
We need a clean troop funding bill that gives our troops the resources they need to succeed in the Global War on Terror, and we need it now. Let's get it done and let's get a bill to the President's desk as soon as possible.