The New York Sun reports on Senators Clinton and Edwards appearing tonight at a dinner for The Lobby That Must Not Be Named.
Clearly, if you know my views on Iraq you’ll guess I’m not super thrilled about the wording of the Warner Resolution on Iraq. Certainly, I’m sympathetic to what Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold are saying about it. Triple certainly, I was a fan of the Kerry-Feingold resolution back in the day, and were I in a position to influence actual White House policy, what I’d be doing is moving as swiftly as logistically feasible to the removal of American troops from Iraq. That said, I tend to agree with Ed Kilgore that it would be a mistake to jab the knives in the back of this resolution. At the moment, absolutely anything that congress says or does about Iraq is pure kabuki. In kabuki terms, this resolution counts as a repudiation of Bush by Democrats and many Republicans. As policy, from what I can tell this resolution is not-so-wonderful. As kabuki, though, it’s good kabuki.
Even if you disagree with that, what I’d urge everyone to do is keep their eyes on the real ball in the air at the moment: Iran. If Bush really bombs Iran and spineless Democrats back him ex post facto then the whole Iraq dynamic changes dramatically, and not for the better. If you want to hassle your member of congress on behalf of some peacenik cause this month, hassle him or her about Iran. The time to hassle your congressional leaders about Iraq will come, as I keep saying, when Bush needs to come ask congress for more money. Hold the line on Iran and hold the line on the supplemental request, and everything will be okay as it possibly can be. If, by contrast, Democrats bobble the Iran issue, then all the strongly-worded Chris Dodd bills in the world aren’t going to save us.
From where I sit, the real significance of this story about Jacques Chirac going off-message on Iran is to underscore something I’ve said before — it’s not clear that bombing Iran would delay Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon at all. Virtually every country on earth could be doing less than it currently is to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. As we see in Chirac’s remarks, in virtually all of these countries there is some substantial disagreement as to how big of a deal the Iranian nuclear program is. Beyond the strict merits of the question, there are two factors militating toward a hard line on Iran. One is that the United States wants other countries to take a hard line, and our words carry some weight. A second is that other countries don’t want the United States or Israel to do anything crazy and start a war.
If a war starts, obviously, that second rationale goes out the window. For some countries, the first may go out the window as well. At the margin, countries with aspirations to greatness (Russia, China, France, India, Brazil, etc.) all face a constant dilemma between kissing the hegemon’s ass and wanting the undermine the hegemon. The more we act like a rogue hegemon — launching or supporting aggressive warfare against other countries — the more at least some of those of those countries will opt for less ass-kissing and more undermining. Both considerations indicate that military strikes on Iran are likely to erode other countries’ efforts to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
It’s crucial not to sell those efforts short. Russia and China have taken a beating in the American press — especially the hawkish press — for not cooperating with the Bush administration as much as one might like. And, indeed, one could ask them to do more. On the other hand, they could be doing much less. At the limit, China could simply accept a whole bunch of money in exchange for sending some Chinese nuke-building guys and nuke-building machines over to Iran: Bomb! I’m not a fortune-teller, so I can’t tell you how big the impact of strikes would be on foreign countries’ attitudes, but the point is simply that it’s a huge X Factor that hawks are absolutely refusing to reckon with.
So…watching Diane Feinstein question DNI-designate Mike McConnell it turns out that the new Director of National Intelligence . . . hasn’t read the forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Nothing like the sweet, sweet professionalism of the Bush administration.
A study released today by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the real troop increase associated with President Bush’s escalation policy could be as high as 48,000, more than double the 21,500 soldiers that Bush has claimed.
As DefenseTech notes, extra forces are expected because the combat units being sent into Iraq “need to be backed up by support troops, ‘including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police, and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical, and other services.’” The CBO’s low estimate envisions at least 15,000 additional support personnel. The alternative scenario “would require about 28,000 support troops in addition to the 20,000 combat troops.”
Additionally, the cost of the escalation could be as much as five times higher than White House estimates:
According to the study, the costs for the “surge” would also be dramatically different than the President has said. The White House estimated a troop escalation would require about $5.6 billion in additional funding, the CBO now believes “that costs would range from $9 billion to $13 billion for a four-month deployment and from $20 billion to $27 billion for a 12-month deployment, depending upon the total number of troops deployed.”
Read the full CBO report HERE.
UPDATE: A release from Rep. John Spratt’s (D-SC) office notes that the CBO report also predicts addition burdens on U.S. forces:
An average of 170,000 military personnel has been maintained in the Iraq theater of operations, and this high deployment level has taken a toll. Last year, CBO reported that the Department of Defense had reduced the amount of ‘dwell’ time for many troops from two years to one year in order to sustain troop levels. ‘Dwell’ time is the time troops spend in training at bases in the United States while living with their families. CBO questioned whether such a high pace of operations was sustainable over the long term. The President’s proposal will increase this level to above 200,000 troops, and to reach this level, the Pentagon will probably have to relax ‘dwell’ time standards even more.
Arnold Kling doesn’t write much about foreign policy, but his ideological manifesto nicely lays out one of the presuppositions behind frequent Munich-invocations in the American political debate:
10. When foreign leaders issue threats against us, we take them at their word and act accordingly.
The only problem with this principle is that it’s totally nuts. For one thing, is there a reason we take threats at face value but not other kinds of statements? Presumably we don’t, as a rule, take all statements made by foreign leaders at face value. We don’t do this for the same reason we don’t, as a rule, take all statements made by people in general at face value: Sometimes it serves people’s interests to lie. If it sometimes serves people’s interests to lie, this applies to foreign leaders as well. It applies to both the threats and the non-threats of foreign leaders. You should always, obviously, take into account what people are saying to you. In general, however, and especially in international politics, it rarely makes sense to evaluate statements at face value.
To take an example, when George W. Bush promised to “end tyranny” as a general phenomenon around the word, should the People’s Republic of China took his threat to overthrow their government at face value? Launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike? Of course not. That would be stupid. People say things for all kinds of reasons — responses need to be tailored to the actual situation, not to remarks others utter. What’s more, think how easily foreign leaders could push us around if they knew all threats would be responded to as if they were 100 percent credible.
They actually publish some pretty crazy things in op-eds that don’t mention me. Check out David Ignatius gushing all over Condoleezza Rice and thank the good lord that Greg Djerejian already rebutted it.
Also worth a read are Max Boot’s neoimperial dreams. Before you read his column, though, read Kevin Carey on the link between school funding and education reform. His argument is that legislators (voters, etc.) will be willing to pony up more money for schools, but only if they’re assured in advance that it’s not just “more money for the same thing.” That all sounds like how a reasonable world would work. Now turn back to Boot. Notice that he’s calling for the expenditure of hundreds of billions of additional dollars in order to do, yes, the same thing. And notice how eerily plausible it is that he’ll actually get his way.
If I may say so, I think the conventional formulation about “cutting off” funding for the war in Iraq is a little misleading. The embedded presumption seems to be that there is a continuing and infinite stream of war funding that continues to flow until either the president removes the troops or else the congress cuts the stream. The federal government does not, however, actually operate in this manner. Rather, appropriations are made providing finite quantities of funds for specific purposes, sometimes with the purpose including an intention to delegate some discretion to the executive branch.
There are some ins and outs, but the point is this the default path is for the government to run out of money. Absent additional appropriations by the congress, the war money will simply be spent and none will be left. Nobody needs to “cut the funding” — all that happens, in legal/budgetary terms, is that no additional money is appropriated. In practice, obviously, it’s not going to come to that — even during the 1995 “government shutdown” they made sure military forces deployed abroad had money. The point, though, is that this is where the budgetary rubber hits the policy road. Bush has a policy he wants to implement. Sooner or later, he needs to come to congress asking for money. What you’re going to want to see is a resolution that says, “of course we’ll appropriate money for the war — here’s $X billion to pay for a withdrawal plan scheduled to end by Date Y after which no more of this money will be spent.” Bush is going to want to argue that he should veto this bill and that anything other than an unadorned appropriation of money to be spent as he sees fits constitutes an abandonment of our troops in the field. Liberals are going to want to argue the reverse — that failure to sign the appropriation with the withdrawal proviso constitutes abandonment of the troops in the field.
In his LA Times column Jonah Goldberg concedes that Wesley Clark and I are not, in fact, anti-semites. Nevertheless, I think he think it’s still okay for people to insinuate that we are anti-semites since he thinks Larry Summers didn’t get a fair shake from feminists during an unrelated controversy.
I’d also be curious to know: Does Jonah think we should launch a war with Iran? To me, his rhetorical approach to this issue suggests that he does, but I don’t want to make any leaps of logic or impute policy positions to him.