January 29, 2007

Over at Hugh Hewitt and elsewhere, there’s a grass-roots effort brewing by conservatives in response to a planned “conscience of the Senate” non-binding resolution planned for early February condemning President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. Increasingly, the resolution is being seen by conservatives as a choice between wanting victory in Iraq, or giving the insurgency there encouragement and moral support.

At the core of this effort is a pledge being pushed in which signees vow to not only abstain from supporting any Republican senator who supports such a resolution, but also make any financial support to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) conditional on the basis that no part of one’s contribution go to the campaigns of Republicans who support such a resolution. The pledge Republicans and conservatives alike are being asked to take and sign contains the following language:

“If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.”

Hugh and other conservative bloggers have been pushing other so-called “conservative” bloggers to not only sign such a pledge, but e-mail their friends and families to ask them to sign it as well, along with contacting Republican senators urging them to block or vote against any kind of like-minded resolution.

To make it short and sweet, I cannot in good conscience support such a pledge, and reject outright any effort by Republicans and conservatives to rally support behind such an idea. My reasons for this are two-fold:

1) While I have always supported “grass-roots” forms of political activism and consider them critical to any kind of well-functioning democracy, the very idea of signing pledges of any kind has always turned me off. Maybe I’m just too much of an independent or free spirit, but pledges of this or any other kind have always struck me as small-minded and childish, as if people don’t have the ability or desire to think and act for themselves, and therefore require someone else to tell them what to do or say.

2) The issue of supporting the President’s plan to commit additional troops to Iraq and putting more of our men and women in harm’s way should not be politicized and reduced to some cheap financial blackmail scheme, and I personally find the whole idea distasteful and downright offensive. A decision to support or not support increasing troop levels in Iraq should have no political threats or implications attached, and I see no problem with any senator, Republican or Democrat, voting their conscience on such a matter.

Here’s how I see it: let’s take the politics out of the situation and simply take a look at the issue involved, as if you or I were being asked to vote on such a matter. (Forget about whether or note this vote will have any real impact – the President as Commander-in-Chief has the authority to commit more troops based on the advice of his military advisors, and he will do so, I have no doubt about that.) So, in effect, the kind of resolution being bandied about in the Senate comes down to two things: a) whether you believe the war up to now has been conducted in an effective way, and b) whether the prospect of putting more troops on the ground and more of our young men and women in harm’s way is a good idea, given the situation there as it stands and the way the war has been fought up to this point.

These kinds of questions demand a moral and ethical response, not a political one. Personally, as someone who believes the war can no longer be won based on the way the President, former Secretary of State Rumsfeld, and others chose to go about it (i.e., with one hand tied behind our backs) following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the initial invasion, I would have no problem voting for any resolution expressing dissatisfaction with the way the war has been prosecuted up to this point and rejecting the idea of committing new troops as a result. Feeling this way, were I to vote otherwise and the situation in Iraq remain unchanged over the next six months or so, I would feel as if I have American blood on my hands.

And to have someone’s own moral and ethical vote on such a resolution become the subject of some effort to not support them financially simply because they voted their conscience is something I find both ill-conceived and ill-advised. After all, this is not some lame vote on farming subsidies or budgets, or the like – this is one involving American lives and American blood, pure and simple. And because there are American lives involved, if an elected official feels within their heart of hearts that it’s time to either pull out, redeploy, or maintain the status quo (however you want to put it), while I may not agree with their position, or even support them in the future based on their vote, it’s one that should be respected.

Look, I don’t know if President Bush’s plan is going to work or not. Given the way the war has been prosecuted up to this point and the absolute mess we have created in Iraq as a result, I believe the U.S. Senate and its members have every right to be suspicious of following lock-step behind the President and his military advisors simply because they think it’s the proper course of action at this time. While I respect General Patraeus’ judgment and the opinions he expressed during his confirmation hearings before Congress last week, who can say if committing more troops at this time will do any good, or is even the right course of action?

Whether or not it’s time to add troops, redeploy, or pull out, I can’t say, but I do know that to threaten political blackmail against elected officials who have every right to express their honest opinions as to the way the war has been conducted thus far, and the moral and ethical dilemma of whether or not to throw more American lives at the problem, is at it’s very core offensive, disgusting, and distasteful to me. I therefore reject the very idea of ‘taking the pledge’, and will do nothing of any kind to support such an effort, and, as both a Republican and a conservative, I encourage others to do the same.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:35 | Comments (0)
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