Tuesday, May 08, 2007

House develops short-term war-funding bill

The House is trying to solidify support behind a bill that would fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through July, then require another vote to keep the money flowing.

The Senate favors a slightly longer leash, providing funding through September.

I go with the Senate on this one, because the House version makes no practical sense. Does anyone claim the surge will show conclusive effects by the end of July? No. So what's the point of drawing an arbitrary deadline there? The Senate version sets the deadline at a logical place: by September we should know if the surge is working and whether it's sustainable.

Politically it's silly, too. There we'll be in July, and the Democrats will be saying "should we continue funding?" and the answer will be "nothing has changed, so if you provided funding before, you need to provide it now." It simply makes the Democrats look dumb.

I know Pelosi needs to placate her antiwar members, but a bill that draws an arbitrary line at a meaningless date on the calendar is no way to do it. Make the date meaningful; go with the Senate version.

Speaking of the surge, the Pentagon today notified 35,000 troops that they could be going to Iraq this fall in order to sustain the higher troop levels through the end of the year. That gives an indication of why sustaining the effort will be the most difficult part. For one thing, the troops include 10 brigade combat teams -- a sizable chunk of the 43 or so teams in the entire Army. Add that to the troops already on the ground, and what you come up with is that the only way to sustain the surge is to stop or greatly curtail rotations home -- in other words, just leave the troops in Iraq.

A plan like that is bad for readiness and morale, especially in a volunteer military. The Army brass won't go for it. Which leads to the inevitable question of whether it's physically possible to put enough troops into Iraq to secure it. The answer generally seems to be "no." Which leads us back to the inescapable conclusion that the only way to secure the place is if Iraqi units take the lead. Problem is, they're far from ready to do that, and there is skepticism in many quarters that they ever will be ready, given their political divisions and rampant corruption.

September will be make or break time. Not just for the surge, but for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi government.

Fund the war until then.

The units affected by the callup are:

• 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Germany;
• 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga.;
• 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades of 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.;
• 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas;
• 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored from Germany;
• 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division from Fort Polk, La.;
• 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii;
• 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Tx.

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