Not All Benchmarks Are Created Equal

Posted: Jan 30, 2007 8:48 PM

Congratulations to Hugh Hewitt for motivating over 30,000 blog-savvy activists to sign his pledge. This represents a serious act of citizen activism and I, for one, hope Republicans in the U.S. Senate are paying attention.

But it is important to distinguish between Sen. John McCain’s proposed resolution and the proposals of Sens. Biden and Warner. In fact, McCain’s draft resolution is a powerful defense of the surge. Moreover, Sen. Joe Lieberman, who takes a backseat to no one in his commitment to victory in Iraq, revealed over the weekend that he is working on the resolution with Sen. McCain.

Of course, Hugh could argue from a position of principle that it is wrong to even talk about “benchmarks” (though it should be pointed out McCain applies no timeline at all to these benchmarks).

But one could argue that the McCain resolution is part of a strategy to ensure no one resolution gets the necessary 60 percent required for passage; meaning support for a McCain resolution by enough Senate Republicans might thwart the Warner resolution and result in no resolution passing at all—precisely the outcome Hugh wants.

Hugh, in fact, makes this argument:

"Benchmarks" are either deadlines after which abandonment looms or poses struck for political cover. Both are the opposite of what is needed, which is resolve and the communication to the troops, our Iraqi allies, and the enemy that we intend to help the Iraqis get the stability and freedom they deserve."

I wonder what Hugh would make of the fact that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney advocated for benchmarks and a timeline on the Northern Alliance Radio Network (which can be heard on Townhall) just this weekend.

Here is what Mitt Romney said:

"So as the next step, the right step is to add additional brigades into Baghdad to pursue with the Iraqi government stability in Baghdad. To set a timetable and a series of milestones -- not for public consumption but for our own military and for our political leadership. And if we make progress along that timetable and milestones, terrific. If we don't, then we have other options."

In fairness, I don’t believe either Sen. McCain or Gov. Romney are advocating for “deadlines after which abandonment looms” -- but if the definition of benchmarks are deadlines, then it is Romney -- not McCain -- who is calling for them.