Murtha in Command

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Murtha in Command

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Feb 19, 2007 4:10 am

Murtha in Command
By Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- After 16 undistinguished terms in Congress, Rep. John P. Murtha at long last felt his moment had arrived. He could not keep quiet the secret Democratic strategy that he had forged for the promised "second step" against President Bush's Iraq policy (after the "first step" non-binding resolution of disapproval). In an interview last Thursday with the anti-war website MoveCongress.org, he revealed plans to put conditions on funding of U.S. troops. His message: I am running this show.

Indeed, he is. Murtha and his ally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were humiliated last Nov. 16 when the Democratic Caucus overwhelmingly voted against Murtha as majority leader. Three months later, Murtha has shaped party policy that would cripple Bush's Iraq troop surge by placing conditions on funding. That represents the most daring congressional attempt to micromanage ongoing armed hostilities in nearly two centuries, since the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War challenged President Abraham Lincoln.

Murtha's plan did not surprise Republicans. They were poised to contend that his proposed amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill would effectively cut off funding for the war, confronting moderate Democrats elected after promising voters to support troops. But the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to end debate, which prevented final passage of the non-binding resolution rejecting the troop surge, would not affect Murtha's plan because appropriations have to be passed and cannot be filibustered.

Thus, unless there is an unexpected retreat of Democrats, Murtha will be driving U.S. policy. That is an improbable elevation for a congressman best known until now as a purveyor of pork. An ideological moderate (75 percent liberal and 40 percent conservative, according to recent ratings), he became a hero to the left by advocating "redeployment" of troops from Iraq.

That prompted Murtha to announce his candidacy for majority leader, which appalled Democrats who knew him well. Two prominent Democrats reminded me that Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980 Abscam investigation. He embarrassed himself on NBC's "Meet the Press" last June by suggesting a redeployment of troops from Iraq to Okinawa. A year earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported firms represented by his lobbyist brother received funds approved by Murtha's appropriations subcommittee.

None of this prevented Pelosi from endorsing Murtha for majority leader against heavily favored Rep. Steny Hoyer. When Hoyer won, 149 to 86, in the Democratic Caucus, Pelosi and Murtha were seemingly repudiated. But since then, Hoyer has appeared the odd man out in the Democratic caucus.

Murtha and Pelosi are setting party strategy in close collaboration with Rep. George Miller, Pelosi's close associate and consigliere. Murtha has made clear that the non-binding resolution, whose merely symbolic nature infuriates anti-war activists, was only the "first step." Murtha, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, did not hide the purpose of setting standards for training, equipping and resting troops: "They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training, and they won't be able to do the work."

When Murtha revealed the strategy, the House Republican staff quickly dispatched e-mails to GOP members that list Democrats who had campaigned last year against restricting support for troops in the field. The messages asked: "Will they side with Jack Murtha and their leadership in Washington, or with the promises they made to their voters?"

But only eight such Democrats, including six newcomers, were listed. Rep. Nick Lampson, who returned to Congress from Tom DeLay's conservative Texas district, had said (according to the Associated Press) that "he opposes withdrawing until the Iraqi army is capable of controlling the country." Lampson declined to talk to me when I said I wanted to ask him about Iraq. Freshman Rep. Brad Ellsworth won election to a swing district in Indiana by saying (according to the Evansville Courier & Press) that "he would not support any measures that would cut funding for forces in Iraq." Ellsworth said he was "too busy" to talk to me after I said the subject was Iraq.

It seems all but certain that Democrats will pass what Murtha frankly calls an attempt to prevent funding of the surge. Improbable though it may seem, blunt and brassy Jack Murtha is moving close to command over U.S. policy on Iraq.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Feb 19, 2007 4:27 am

Unparalleled Perfidy

INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY

Posted 2/16/2007

War On Terror: The party of John Murtha shamelessly seeks to defund and defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Congress the terrorists wanted is doing their bidding.

There's a reason the founders of this country designated a single commander in chief and placed the responsibility to wage war in the hands of the president. We saw recently the futility of having 100 commanders in chief when the Senate tried to pass a resolution of disapproval of the war in Iraq and couldn't agree on the terms of our surrender.

Now it's the House of Representatives' turn, led by Rep. John Murtha, who believes the fine young men and women we send to defeat terror and our sworn enemies are cold-blooded killers. While the House works on its own nonbinding resolution, Murtha has bigger plans and considers such a resolution only a prelude to the real battle in March over appropriations for the war.
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As chairman of the House panel that oversees military spending, Murtha plans to advance legislation next month attaching strings to the additional war funds Bush requested on Feb. 5.

Murtha plans to stop the Iraq War by placing four conditions on combat funds through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The Pentagon would have to certify that troops being sent to Iraq are "fully combat ready" with training and equipment, troops must have at least one year at home between combat deployments, combat deployments cannot be longer than a year, and extending tours of duty would be prohibited.

"We're trying to force a redeployment not by taking money away, (but) by redirecting money," explained Murtha.

As we've noted on several occasions, Democratic talk of "redeployment" has encouraged terrorist groups around the world.

Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said before the 2006 vote: "Americans should vote Democratic," adding that "it is time the American people support those who want to take them out of the Iraqi mud." The statement could have come from Murtha, Kerry, Hillary or any number of Democrats.

We find it scary that the Democratic and terrorist game plans are indistinguishable.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was for the war before she was against it, has denied she supports cutting off any money for U.S. forces. But she has admitted she would cut off funds to our Iraqi allies to "get their attention." Such a move would likely lead to a collapse of the fledgling Iraqi democracy and a withdrawal of U.S. forces amid chaos similar to what happened when the 1974 Watergate babies cut off aid to our allies in South Vietnam.

If Clinton and Murtha et al. have their way, we may yet see U.S. helicopters lifting off our embassy roof in Baghdad and a jihadist bloodbath like the killing fields of post-Vietnam Cambodia. If her husband's cowardly withdrawal from Somalia after the bodies of U.S. soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu inspired Osama bin Laden to plan 9/11, imagine what a Democrat-led defeat in Iraq might spawn.

Clinton would leave us with an Iraq as the new base camp for terror, replacing Afghanistan under the Taliban. She has already warned the Bush administration that it must come to the Democratic majority in Congress for permission to deal with an Iran that is providing high-tech explosives to kill American soldiers and developing nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them.

It's not that the Democrats think we're losing or that the war is unwinnable. They simply don't want to win it. As House Minority Leader John Boehner said of Murtha's proposals: "While American troops are fighting radical Islamic terrorists thousands of miles away, it is unthinkable that the United States Congress would move to discredit their mission, cut off their reinforcements and deny them the resources they need to succeed and return home safely."

At his press conference last week, Bush warned Congress against tying his hands on the war: "I make it very clear to the members of Congress, starting now, that they need to fund our troops and make sure we have the flexibility necessary to get the job done."

Give us the tools and we'll finish the job, said Winston Churchill in the dark days before our official entry into World War II. America delayed its entry into both world wars, but once in, we were committed to win. Hillary thinks that applies only to her campaign, not to the war on terror.

Neville Chamberlain's naivete may have helped bring on World War II, but at least he supported his country when war began. Norway's Vidkun Quisling and France's Vichy government under Marshal Petain may have collaborated with the Nazi enemy, but after their countries' defeats, not before.

We'd have to go back to Benedict Arnold to find Americans as eager as Murtha & Co. to see an American defeat on the battlefield.

They are working on the game plan of al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In October 2005, Zawahiri outlined al-Qaida's plan in a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, late head of al-Qaida in Iraq:

"The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority . . . over as much territory as you can spread its power in Iraq . . . in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans."


John Murtha and his perfidious friends are working on creating that void and completing Zawahiri's first stage. They are the appeasers Churchill warned about who hope that by feeding the Islamofascist tiger, it will eat us last.

http://www.investors.com/editorial/edit ... 2262721962
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While the 60s-Vietnam obsessed permanent juveniles that are the Democrats insist on replaying their tragic policies in southeast Asia c. 1975, they would do well to note the chart above and contemplate where their mindless abandonment of responsibility in 1975 got them electorially. Their own constituents don't want them to do what they are doing. But they are Democrats. Like the scorpion, they can't help themselves.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Feb 19, 2007 7:10 am

Polls, polls, polls. Of course we don't know what responders defined "victory" in Iraq as. And you can be sure they weren't given a series of in-depth choices, either.

And Novak - he doesn't like Murtha. Well, I don't like Novak and agree that Jon Stewart's affectionate term for him, "douchebag," is appropriate.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Post by Barry » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:36 am

Botson Globe
JEFF JACOBY
Irreconcilable positions: support troops, oppose war
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | February 18, 2007

WHAT DOES IT mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?

No loyal Colts fan rooted for Indianapolis to lose the Super Bowl. No investor buys 100 shares of Google in the hope that Google's stock will tank. No one who applauds firefighters for their courage and education wants a four-alarm blaze to burn out of control.

Yet there is no end of Americans who insist they "support" US troops in Iraq but want the war those troops are fighting to end in defeat. The two positions are irreconcilable. You cannot logically or honorably curse the war as an immoral neocon disaster or a Halliburton oil grab or "a fraud . . . cooked up in Texas," yet bless the troops who are waging it.

But logic and honor haven't stopped members of Congress from trying to square that circle. The nonbinding resolution they debated last week was a flagrant attempt to have it both ways. One of its two clauses professed to "support and protect" the forces serving "bravely and honorably" in Iraq. The other declared that Congress "disapproves" the surge in troops now underway -- a surge that General David Petraeus , the new military commander in Iraq, considers essential.

It was a disgraceful and dishonest resolution, and it must have done wonders for the insurgents' morale. Democrats hardly bothered to disguise that when they say they "support and protect" the troops, what they really intend is to undermine and endanger their mission. The Politico, a new Washington news site, reported Thursday that the strategy of "top House Democrats, working in concert with anti war groups," is to "pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options." If they had the courage of their convictions, they would forthrightly defund the war, bring the troops home, and brave the political consequences. Instead they plan a more agonizing and drawn-out defeat -- slowly choking off the war by denying reinforcements, eventually leaving no alternative but retreat.

That is how those who oppose the war "support" the troops -- they "slow-bleed" them dry. Or they declare that the lives laid down by those troops were "wasted," as Senator Barack Obama did last Sunday. Obama later weaseled away from that characterization , but the gaffe had been made. And like most political gaffes, it exposed the speaker's true feelings.

And why wouldn't Obama feel that way? If an American serviceman dies in the course of a war that toppled a monstrous dictatorship, opened the door to decent Arab governance, and has become the central front in the struggle against radical Islam, his death is not in vain. It is the sacrifice of an American hero, the last full measure of devotion given in the cause of freedom. But if he dies in the course of a senseless and illegitimate invasion -- which appears to be Obama's view of Iraq -- then his life was wasted. If that's what you believe, Senator, why not say so?

Obama's is merely the latest in a series of senatorial comments that offer a glimpse of the left's anti military disdain.

Smart people who work hard become successful, John Kerry "joked" last fall, but uneducated sluggards "get stuck in Iraq." Osama bin Laden is beloved by Muslims for "building schools, building roads . . . building day-care facilities," Washington Senator Patty Murray explained in 2002, while Americans only show up to "bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan." Obama's Illinois colleague Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor to equate US military interrogators in Guantanamo Bay with "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags," and similar mass-murderers, such as "Pol Pot or others."

It goes without saying that many Democrats and liberals take a back seat to no one in their admiration and appreciation of the US military. But there is no denying that a notable current of antimilitary hostility runs through the left as well. Examples are endless: ROTC is banned on elite college campuses. San Francisco bars a historic battleship from its port. Signs at antiwar protests urge troops to "shoot their officers." An Ivy League professor prays for "a million Mogadishus." Michael Moore compares Iraqi insurgents who kill Americans to the Minutemen of Revolutionary New England.

America is a free country, but it is not the Michael Moores or the ROTC-banners or the senatorial loudmouths who keep it free. They merely enjoy the freedom that others are prepared to defend with their lives. It is the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform to whom we owe our liberty. Surely they deserve better than pious claims of "support" from those who are working for their defeat.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

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Post by Barry » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:39 am

San Diego Union-Tribune
The party of defeat

By Robert J. Caldwell
February 18, 2007

Democrats have struggled for a generation to escape the crippling public perception that they are soft on national security. Majority Democrats in the House of Representatives have now revived their party's electoral curse.

The House vote Friday for a Democratic leadership resolution opposing President Bush's plan to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq was lopsidedly partisan. Nearly all Democrats voted for it. All but a relative handful of Republicans voted against it.

Yes, it is a nonbinding resolution, meaning it has no force in law. Bush is free to ignore it, as he already has said he will. And, yes, it contained political cover language expressing support for American troops in Iraq. Thus, as virtually all Democrats proclaimed during the House's four days of debate on the resolution, Democrats can claim that they “support the troops.”

But House Democrats are now on record as formally opposing the troops' mission – a potentially decisive effort to stop the violence in Baghdad and defeat the Sunni insurgency in Anbar province.

It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the entire American campaign in Iraq rides on this mission, and on the parallel effort to prompt political reconciliation among Iraqi factions. Unless U.S. and Iraqi forces can at least greatly diminish the terrorist carnage convulsing Iraq's capital city, the paramount U.S. objective of creating a stable, democratic Iraq won't be achieved. The complementary struggle in Anbar province is equally decisive. Defeating the Sunni insurgents and their allies, the terrorists of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is vital to the hopes of stabilizing Iraq sufficiently to permit American forces to begin withdrawing.

The Democrats' passage of a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop reinforcements that Bush and his Iraq commander, Army Gen. David Petraeus, say are essential to American success is damaging enough. If Democrats now use their power over appropriations to defeat the troop surge before it can be fully implemented, the political risk to Democrats will be greatly compounded.

Starkly put, Democrats risk making “Bush's war” their war, and then losing it.

If you think Democrats wouldn't be that foolish or reckless, think again.

Rep. John Murtha, the blustery Pennsylvania pol and anti-war ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is already pledging to use his power as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's appropriations subcommittee on defense to stop the surge by restricting the deployment and funding of U.S. forces.

Here's what Murtha said in an interview Thursday with the MoveCongress.org Web site, which represents a coalition of anti-war groups:

“They (the troops) won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind ... we're going to stop this surge.”

Does Pelosi, smarter and smoother than Murtha, agree?

“I fully support that,” Pelosi said of Murtha's remarks.

What's building, then, is not only a political crisis for the Democratic Party but a constitutional clash over the president's, any president's, express powers as commander in chief of America's armed forces.

The Constitution wisely vests the power to command the armed forces in the president, not Congress. That's especially true in time of war. If Bush decides that sending another 21,500 troops to Iraq is necessary, that's his call under the Constitution. Congress' constitutional authority lies in deciding how much to appropriate for the military. Deputizing 435 House members and 100 senators as armchair generals to micromanage the movement of troops and the military conduct of a war isn't in the Constitution for a reason. It couldn't possibly work and would be folly to attempt.

But that, apparently, is what Pelosi, Murtha and the House Democratic leadership intend. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, scrambling Friday to push a comparable resolution in the Senate, seems to be similarly misguided.

Have the Democrats learned nothing from history?

In 1973, a heavily Democratic Congress voted to prohibit U.S. air support for Cambodia's pro-American army, then desperately fending off the communist Khmer Rouge insurgents. In early 1975, Congress cut off all U.S. military aid for Cambodia.

Predictably, Cambodian government forces were soon defeated by the Khmer Rouge, then backed by Communist China and North Vietnam.

What followed was one of the great horrors of the 20th century – the genocidal slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of 2 million Cambodians, roughly 40 percent of Cambodia's population.

In 1974-75, an even more heavily Democratic Congress drastically cut U.S. military and economic assistance to our ally South Vietnam, even as the Soviet Union was illegally flooding North Vietnam with heavy weapons. The subsequent North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam overran our ally, took Saigon, and promptly imposed a Stalinist dictatorship that resulted in the deaths and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, constantly, but selectively, invoked by Democrats last week as a blueprint for a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, also lent support to a “temporary surge” in U.S. forces if deemed necessary. In addition, the ISG report warned ominously of the dire consequences – Iraq as a failed, terrorist state, a destabilized Middle East, and spreading regional conflict – of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq that many Democrats favor.

If Pelosi, Murtha and Reid succeed in crippling the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and thereby contribute to defeat and disaster, Democrats would spend another generation rightly deemed weak and feckless on national security.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

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Post by Barry » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:41 am

Realclearpolitics.com
Ralph Peters
COWARDS GIVE UP ON GIS - & GIVE IN TO EVIL ON OUR SIDE:
February 17, 2007 -- PROVIDING aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. It's not "just politics." It's treason.

And signaling our enemies that Congress wants them to win isn't "supporting our troops."

The "nonbinding resolution" telling the world that we intend to surrender to terrorism and abandon Iraq may be the most disgraceful congressional action since the Democratic Party united to defend slavery.

The vote was a huge morale booster for al Qaeda, for Iraq's Sunni insurgents, and for the worst of the Shia militias.

The message Congress just sent to them all was, "Hold on, we'll stop the surge, we're going to leave - and you can slaughter the innocent with our blessing."

We've reached a low point in the history of our government when a substantial number of legislators would welcome an American defeat in Iraq for domestic political advantage.

Yes, some members voted their conscience. But does anyone believe they were in the majority?

This troop surge might not work. We can't know yet. But we can be damned sure that the shameful action taken on the Hill while our troops are fighting isn't going to help.

And a word about those troops: It's going to come as a shock to the massive egos in Congress, but this resolution won't hurt morale - for the simple reason that our men and women in uniform have such low expectations of our politicians that they'll shrug this off as business as usual.

This resolution has teeth, though: It's going to bite our combat commanders. By undermining their credibility and shaking the trust of their Iraqi counterparts, it makes it far tougher to build the alliances that might give Iraq a chance.

If you were an Iraqi, would you be willing to trust Americans and risk your life after the United States Congress voted to abandon you?

Now that Donald Rumsfeld's gone, the Democrats are doing just what they pilloried the former Secretary of Defense for doing: Denying battlefield commanders the troops and resources they need.

Congresswoman Pelosi, have you no shame?

As a former soldier who still spends a good bit of time with those in uniform, what infuriates me personally is the Doublespeak, Stalin-Prize lie that undercutting our troops and encouraging our enemies is really a way to "support our troops."

As for bringing them home, why not respect the vote the troops themselves are taking: Sustained re-enlistment rates have been at a record high.

And our soldiers and Marines know they'll go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. And no, Senator Kerry, it's not because they're too stupid to get a "real" job like yours or because they're "mercenaries." Some Americans still believe in America.

If our troops are willing to fight this bitter war, how dare Congress knife them in the back?

On Thursday night, I was in Nashville as a guest of the 506th Regimental Combat Team - with whom I'd spent all too brief a time in Baghdad.

The occasion was their welcome-home ball, complete with dress uniforms spangled with awards for bravery. Proud spouses sat beside their returned warriors.

Of course, those soldiers were glad to be home with their loved ones. But they also know they'll go back to one theater of war or another - and no one complained.

They share a value that Congress has forgotten: duty. They're willing to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. Because they know that freedom has a price.

As you entered the ballroom for the event, the first thing you saw was a line of 34 photographs. A single white candle softly lit each frame. Those were the members of the 506th who didn't come home.

Soldiers honor their dead. It's the least Congress could do to honor the living men and women in uniform.

You don't support our troops by supporting our enemies.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Ted

Post by Ted » Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:09 am

Last night I couldn't get to sleep...I thought about a glass of warm milk,but then I discoverd this thread.
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Post by piston » Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:28 am

A completely disrupted NATO alliance would prove an even greater victory for the enemy(ies). This alliance is already fragile in Afghanistan as continental European leaders refuse to send their soldiers to the combat zones. Knowledgeable strategists are anticipating a significant Taliban offensive this spring and, apparently, political leaders in France, Germany, Italy, etc. (the Netherlands excepted) do not intend to deal with current inequities in the line of fire. The fact that Washington, D.C., might prove less responsive as well could endanger the 60-year old alliance. All it takes is a very deadly battle or a series of closely coordinated strikes, just like the Tet Offensive. It does not even need to be successful militarily speaking.....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by piston » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:26 pm

AfghanNews.net

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Fighting fires
18. Februaryy 2007, 12:48
Economist.com - “BUSH Commits One Additional Troop To Afghanistan” read a recent headline in the Onion, an online satirical American newspaper. The satirists nearly got it right: on Thursday February 15th, George Bush confirmed that a mini surge of 3,200 extra troops will be sent. He also called on America’s NATO allies to beef up their own presence there, more than five years after the Taliban were ousted from Kabul.

There are certainly good reasons to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, though it is unclear what a few thousand extra might achieve. The Taliban are likely, especially in Helmand province, to launch a series of new offensives as the winter snows begin to melt. Afghans are growing frustrated by the lack of recovery: without the imposition of law and order it is proving difficult to promote reconstruction, to fight corruption in government or to get the economy working.

Mr Bush may be motivated by domestic grumbles too. Among the many criticisms from the Democrats and some Republicans of his policy in Iraq is the charge that, while sending more than 20,000 additional soldiers to Baghdad, Mr Bush has been neglecting Afghanistan. Rather than plough more scarce resources into a failed war of choice in Iraq, runs this argument, America should do more to stamp out the insurgency in Afghanistan, the breeding ground of al-Qaeda. Thus Mr Bush’s promise of soldiers for Afghanistan may be intended to show that America still has some fight to spare.

But consider the many crises underway. The risk of military and diplomatic overstretch is prompting a more ad hoc, less ideological, approach to foreign policy. This week declassified army plans from 2002 suggested that the American government expected, by now, to have only 5,000 soldiers in a peaceful and well-run Iraq. Instead it has 132,000 troops trapped in the middle of a sectarian civil war. Add America’s military commitments on the Korean peninsula, in the Horn of Africa (recent American air strikes helped dislodge Islamists from Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu) and in other parts of the Middle East, and one might conclude that even the world’s strongest armed forces are performing near their limit.

That might help to explain why more pragmatic diplomats were allowed to take the lead over North Korea this week. America is clearly trying to avoid a showdown there and has agreed, during six-nation talks in Beijing, to a deal that promises energy aid and warmer diplomatic ties for the dictatorship, if a nuclear facility is closed within 60 days. Compared with America’s previous hardline approach, this looks like an abrupt about-face.

Many conservatives are horrified. John Bolton, until recently America’s ambassador at the UN, said it would leave America looking through a “soda straw” at North Korea’s nuclear activities, and would encourage other would-be proliferators to seek pay-offs for merely obeying the rules. As it happens, Mr Bolton is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think-tank where Mr Bush announced the Afghanistan surge on Thursday. Other armchair warriors at the AEI have criticised any deal with North Korea that seems to reward Kim Jong Il for behaving badly.

In contrast, on Iran, the neocons who pushed for the war in Iraq seem to be in charge. Mr Bush has sent a carrier battle-group and anti-missile batteries towards Iran, and has turned up the rhetorical heat. Iran has been blamed for providing explosives used against Americans in Iraq, and Iranians have been detained there. On this front, the administration has looked so bellicose that both Democrats and some Republicans have fretted publicly about stumbling into yet another war.

There may be a grand strategy in the different ways of handling Iran and North Korea. Perhaps America worries less about the isolated and impoverished Asian country. Evidently there is more leverage over energy-poor North Korea than over oil-exporting Iran. Perhaps getting the North Koreans out of the nuclear business may help to isolate Iran. Or a more mundane motivation may be at play: America is fighting fires however it can on different fronts, no longer guided by a single clear ideology. Irving Kristol, a founding father of neoconservatism, said that a neocon was a liberal who had been “mugged by reality”. Now, perhaps, Mr Bush’s reactive diplomacy is showing what happens when the neocons themselves face muggers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea simultaneously.



I gather from another source that Bush also ordered the 10th Mountain Range soldiers who had just finished their year of duty to unpack their bags and to stay for an additional four months. I bet they're in a good mood.[/i]
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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