How dare they pull political stunts like that?!?

Don’t you hate it when something backfires on you? I sure do. But I don’t have Legacy Media to help try to turn the tables after they’ve been turned on me.

This is via Oh, THAT Liberal Media. The three following snippets are the ledes from the New York Times (the “Paper of Record”, mind you) and are by Eric Schmitt. All emphasis is mine.

12:30 PM Friday afternoon in Fast Withdrawal of G.I.’s Is Urged by Key Democrat:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 – The partisan furor over the Iraq war ratcheted up sharply on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as an influential House Democrat on military matters called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops and Republicans escalated their attacks against the Bush administration’s critics.

7:30 PM Friday evening in a since-changed Uproar in House as Parties Clash on Iraq Pullout:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 – House Republicans are attempting to split the ranks of the Democrats tonight by offering a resolution to withdraw American troops from Iraq immediately. The Republican-controlled House is expected to defeat the measure in a vote that the Republicans hope will leave the Democrats in disarray.

10:30 PM Friday night in a revised version of the same story:

The battle came as Democrats accused Republicans of pulling a political stunt by moving toward a vote on a symbolic alternative to the resolution that Mr. Murtha offered on Thursday, calling for the swift withdrawal of American troops. Democrats said the ploy distorted the meaning of Mr. Murtha’s measure and left little time for meaningful debate.

Talk about “military transformation”! We went from “Democrat calling for immediate withdrawal” to “Republicans calling to withdraw immediately” (as a stunt) to “Mr. Murtha calling for swift withdrawal”. All in about ten hours.

N.Z. Bear notes that the whole “it’s all about starting a discussion” song and dance is bunk. He notes the text of Murtha’s speech as posted on Murtha’s web site:

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.

The CAPS are on Murtha’s web site. Does that mean he SHOUTED that sentence while delivering the speech? Anyway, N.Z. Bear writes:

You will note his closing line does not read “IT IS TIME TO HAVE A SERIOUS BI-PARTISAN DEBATE ON BRINGING THEM HOME.”

What makes this all even more amazing is that Fred Kaplan at Slate now maintains that Murtha wasn’t even calling for a withdrawal at all. He was calling for a “redeployment”. Here’s a large part of Kaplan’s most recent column, with some of my thoughts scribbled in the margins.

What Murtha Meant
We’re leaving Iraq anyway. At least he’s got a plan.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Monday, Nov. 21, 2005, at 5:50 PM ET

Ah, the old “there’s no plan” game. Anyone that thinks the military does anything without a plan (or several plans) is ignorant. Kaplan isn’t ignorant. That means he’s trying to mislead you.

Everyone in Washington seems to agree that Rep. John Murtha’s proposal for getting out of Iraq is a bad idea. But everyone is wrong in describing just what it is that he proposes.

Take a close look at Murtha’s now-infamous statement of Nov. 17. You will not find the words “withdrawal,” “pullout,” or their myriad synonyms. Instead, he calls for a “redeployment” of U.S. troops–which may seem like a euphemism for withdrawal but in fact is very different. Toward the end of his statement, Murtha lays out the elements of what he calls his “plan”:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.

Yes, Mr. Kaplan. We realize that he’s calling for a “redeployment” and I’ll bet that Murtha’s staff spent a fair amount of time with Roget making sure that no terms he used could be construed as meaning “retreat”. However, if you’d like to play little word games, every “withdrawal” is a “redeployment” of forces. So is every “invasion”. Is he advocating the invasion of Kuwait?

At this point, I’m sure that most readers are pretty disappointed that Kaplans point seems to be “he didn’t say ‘withdraw’ he didn’t say ‘withdraw’ he didn’t say ‘withdraw’“. Is it worth going on? Probably not. But let’s forge ahead.

He doesn’t elaborate on any of these ideas, but it’s clear they don’t add up to “cut and run.” True, his final line reads, “It is time to bring them home,” but his plan suggests he wants to bring, at most, only some of them home. The others are to be “redeployed” in the quick-reaction forces hovering just offshore.

Isn’t that what we did 1991-2003? What’s next? “Redeploy” the Air Force to enforce some “No-Fly” zones?

Murtha stressed this point Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying he wanted to “redeploy the troops to the periphery.” He used that phrase–“to the periphery,” meaning just offshore or across the border from Iraq, not all the way home–three times during the interview.

Host Tim Russert never asked–nor did Murtha explain–what these forces will be doing offshore, or under what circumstances they might re-enter the conflict.

That shouldn’t be hard to fathom. If, say, Hell were to freeze over, I’m sure approval for a fact-finding mission would be forthcoming. In all fairness, Kaplan goes on to describe a study by the Center for American Progress, titled Strategic Redeployment: A Progressive Plan for Iraq and the Struggle Against Violent Extremists that Murtha apparently read and liked. He also makes sure to point out that one of the studies authors was the Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration. Sort of a See? Not only does a Marine Congressman who voted for the war like the plan, but it was written by a Reagan man!I’ve been told for so long by so many people that Reagan and his cronies were so stupid, though, that I don’t understand how this is supposed to sway anyone.

Murtha also told Russert, with only slight exaggeration, “There’s nobody that talks to people in the Pentagon more than I do.”

I’m glad that Kaplan also cleared up the fact that this was an exaggeration. I guess that makes me wonder if anything Murtha says can be taken at face value. Or do we need to wait for a Kaplan column to translate it for us?

It almost doesn’t matter whether withdrawing or redeploying the troops is a good idea; it’s simply going to happen because there is no way for it not to happen (short of a major act of political will, such as reviving the draft or keeping troops on the battlefield beyond reasonable endurance). This is what Murtha meant when he told Russert, “We’re going to be out of there, we’re going to be out of there very quickly, and it’s going to be close to the plan that I’m presenting right now.”

Again, kudos to Kaplan for telling us that’s what Murtha meant. I took “I predict we’ll be out of there–it’ll be 2006” to mean that we’d be out in 2006. I guess it’s a lot more nuanced than that, though.

So, the pertinent question becomes: What is the best way for redeploying? In other words, by what timetable (whether one is explicitly announced or not), after what political and military actions? How many U.S. troops should be left behind, and what should they be doing? Where should the others be redeployed, and under what circumstances will they move back into Iraq? Do we have any realistic strategic goals left in this war (one big problem in this whole fiasco is that the Bush administration never had any from the outset), and how do we accomplish them?

No strategic goals? Who’s he kidding? Everyone knows it was all about the oil. Again, the “no plan” canard, presented as if it’s common wisdom.

John Murtha’s proposal leaves open a lot of questions, but–seen for what it really says, not for how it’s been portrayed–it’s a start.

Well, in fact Kaplan’s really saying “…but–seen for what I’m telling you it says…”, and he’s missed the boat as the withdrawal/retreat/redeployment plan was shot down. Like usual, Kaplan isn’t totally off the mark. But he’s not really on-target.

Discussion is very much needed. But don’t pretend that this whole Murtha thing is about a discussion. Murtha may not have said “withdrawal”, but he didn’t ALL CAPS anything about any “discussion”.

Comments

  1. Heh, your ‘Anyone that thinks the military does anything without a plan (or several plans) is ignorant.’ reminds me of a line from what is probably my favorite movie: ‘Son, the average Russki don’t take a dump without a plan.’ But seriously… the ‘no plan’ allegations are typically based upon the theory that not enough troops were sent in initially. I can see how having more troops would have been useful… but would that have made any real difference? I’d like to hear from some in the military. Frankly, I’m not qualified to answer the question. Anyone?

  2. Arguments for higher troop levels almost don’t matter now. The direction from now on will be more Iraq troops, fewer U.S. and coalition troops. But some experts have said we have had too many troops in Iraq. I happen to agree. If we had more troops there, the insurgents would have had more targets, and the Iraqis would have had less incentive to start their own army.

  3. I follow your points – I think – at least to agree that the media hasn’t well portrayed this issue. But come on, Murtha had a good point. The Repubs don’t want to talk about any ‘withdrawal’ scenarios, and yet the Pentagon’s talking about drawdowns already. Are you really satisfied with the ‘we’ll come home when we’re good and ready to come home’ argument by the White House? Doesn’t the Congress have a responsibility to discuss foreign policy and military strategy as well? Sooner or later, the troops will have to leave Iraq, and if (let’s just assume for a moment) Bush does have a crappy plan, isn’t it someone’s responsibility via check and balance to tell him to get his ducks in order? Murtha’s got a decent plan – he’s not ‘cutting and running,’ he’s getting into a better position. Just like the Marines in the early part of the Korean War, they didn’t retreat, they moved to a more defensible position that just happened to be further south. At least Marines know when practicality and survivability can be more important factors than ‘staying the course.’

  4. J – I don’t agree that Murtha has a good plan, for several reasons. One, several critical events have not yet happened. The election is soon. A major offensive is still in progress. The borders do not have proper patrols yet. Three or four provinces still do not have a decent security situation. The Iraqi police and soldier training is about halfway through. Why is it a good idea to leave before all those things have had a chance to be completed? So far all of those things have been successful, but they’re not completed yet and there’s no evidence as far as I am concerned that the Iraqis can take over all of them successfully. Why go away while the things which the US presence allows seem to be working? Also, it would be extreme folly to pull out so fast. Leaving should be done with a trickle, so as to be able to continually assess its impact. If the situation steadily declines during the pullout then we have an idea it’s probably a mistake. If everyone leaves in 6 months and it suddely goes to hell after say 4 months, it’s hard to know exactly why that is and it’s hard to reverse it. I don’t think the Iraqis need a rapid response force. They need logistics – they don’t have their own just yet. They need trainers. They need a significant force booster. That’s not to say that the way the coalition troops are operating can not change – there can be dramatic shifts. But not yet, and not in the manner Murtha is suggesting. I hear three charges often – we’re losing, we can’t win and we have no good strategy. What I do not hear is explanations why this is the case. Judging by various indicators, such as the breakdown of attacks across provinces, Iraqi civilian, police and military casualties and the size of the Iraqi forces, we are making progress and therefore not losing. If we are making progress, what is to say we won’t continue making progress to the point we can leave and the situation continue to improve, ergo we win? And for those who aay we have no strategy – well, maybe some people have not been good at explaining our strategy, but the strategy we are executing now seems to me to be working. It’s also pretty plain to me when we should start to draw down, but maybe it hasn’t been stated clearly enough. Basically after these elections, as the ISF grow to their desired level and IF progress continues to be made at the current pace, I believe a slow drawdown can start within the next few months. I think it will take several years before the levels get somewhere between 50-75k, somewhat similar to those in Afghanistan. What happens then is trickier and depends on how the situation changes. So, in short, why is now a good time to leave, before we get a chance to assess the impact of the elections and the current offensives, and why leave so fast when we don’t know what impact it will have, and with a rapid exit it may be too late to act by the time we find out?

  5. why go away while the things which the US presence allows seem to be working?’ Why go now when the US body count is starting to really pile up? After all we are just about to turn the corner and see the light at the end of the tunnel! Wow, all this corner turning is making the wingnuts dizzy. they they think they are getting somewhere. Seriously though, got any evidence that things are getting better? Cong. Murtha seems to be saying that we will continue to provide a field force that will prevent the terrorists from massing and posing a real military threat. MEANWHILE IN SOME IMPORTANT NEWS, OUR ALLIES-THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT, HAS ASKED FOR A TIMETABLE FOR OUR WITHDRAWL. oh and they have defined terrorism so that attacks on US and UK forces are part of a ‘legitimate right’ of self defense. http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5431131,00.html it is time to get out now!