Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"If you want a safe job, go sell shoes"

Chuck Hagel [R-NE](center) pulled no punches opposing the ab-surge-ity that is
the McCain Doctrine in a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today

Chuck Hagel took a strong stand today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as they deliberated a non-binding resolution opposing the McCain Doctrine of a troop escalation in Iraq. He chastised members of his own party, demanding they look into the camera and explain themselves to the people back home. The Purple Heart recipient, who understands the gravitas of war was in no mood to quibble. "There is no strategy," Hagel said of the Bush administration's war management. "This is a pingpong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, are not beans; they're real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder."

"No president of the United States can sustain a foreign policy or a war policy without the sustained support of the American people," he continued. "This is not an attempt to embarrass the president. ... It is an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq." But Hagel wasn't finished. "This is a tough business. But is it any tougher, us having to take a tough vote, express ourselves and have the courage to step up on what we're asking our young men and women to do? If you want a safe job, go sell shoes."

Senator Hagel was the only Republican on the committee to cross over and vote with the Democrats to pass the non-binding resolution out of committee, but so far a total of eight Republicans in the Senate have indicated they back efforts to stop the troop-buildup now underway that will insert a total of 21,500 new American targets into the civil war raging in Iraq. The growing list of Senate Republicans who do not support the escalation includes Sens. Gordon Smith , George Voinovich, Susan Collins and Sam Brownback. "I am not confident that President Bush's plan will succeed," said Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the committee, but he voted with those opposed anyway because he didn't want to 'appear weak in the face of our enemies.' (Insert Bronx cheer here, the universal salute to the feckless.)

"The president has made his decision," Vice President Dick Cheney arrogantly shot back, in a response that made it clear the administration doesn't give a damn what the American people or the congress thinks; but would forge ahead anyway. "We need to get the job done."

"We are moving forward," Cheney said in an interview with CNN in which he was asked about the troop buildup. "The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding. But in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision." The vice president added: "We've consulted extensively with them. We'll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done."

He also made the assertion that "We have to have the stomach to finish the task." I would remind everyone that when he was one of the young men who should have had the stomach to finish the task, he was gutless, taking five deferments because he had "other priorities." Chuck Hagel still today has shrapnel in his chest because he wasn't a useless punk. Cheney dismisses Hagel's objections with a "He hasn't been with us for a long time anyway." (Can anyone think of a better endorsement for Hagel? Yeah, me neither.)

The Democrats are emboldened by the public attitude and the Republican opposition that is building against the president and his war (mis)management, and hope for a vote by the full Senate next week.

Homefront Implications

The effects of fighting two simultaneous wars, coupled with the escalation of troop levels in Iraq don't stop there. The homefront is compromised. There is concern at the Pentagon that the conflict could hamper the military's response to domestic crises. "I am not as comfortable as some others seem to be in accepting the low readiness levels here at home," Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said. "It creates a problem. It will cost us time and time will translate into lives."

The armed forces plan to bolster the size of the active duty forces by 90,000 Soldiers and Marines over the next five years, at a cost of 10.8 billion dollars. (The service budget jumps $1.2 billion with each 10,000 Soldiers and Marines that it recruits and trains. The highly technical Air Force and Navy carry an even steeper price tag.)

Should another conflict erupt before the force can be bolstered, it would take longer to fight and cost more American casualties than otherwise might be expected, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, a deputy chief of staff.

Meanwhile, he acknowledged, fighting wars on two fronts has compromised the readiness of the ground forces. Some units are below the standard measure used to determine if they are ready to fight a conventional, high-intensity war. This is because they have substantial equipment shortfalls and their training is focusing on the low-intensity, counterinsurgency battle being fought in Iraq. "What America needs to do is realize that we can fulfill the national strategy (of defending against another conflict simultaneously), but ... that it will take more time and it will also take us increased casualties to do the job," he said.

The implications of the war are much farther reaching than most people realize. Only about 2% of the people in this country have any connection to the military at all. That isn't very many of us who really truly "get it" and realize the full gravity of sending our military on a bug-hunt.

In ordinary times, that would not be so problematic, but in these times it is. We have a president who thinks it's a big game of Risk. But these aren't mere pieces on a board. These are American (and Iraqi) lives at stake. That we have a president who doesn't appreciate this fact makes it all the more pressing that those of us who do educate those who don't.