This should not surprise anyone:
Pentagon leaders have recommended to President Bush that the United States make no further troop reductions in Iraq this year, administration officials said yesterday.
The plan, delivered this week, calls for extending a pause in drawdowns until late January or early February — after the Bush administration has left office. At that point, up to 7,500 of the approximately 146,000 troops in Iraq could be withdrawn, depending on conditions on the ground there. The reduction would coincide with new deployments to Afghanistan, officials said.
The real test of the next U.S. President’s leadership will be his ability to break this dynamic and impose some semblance of civilian control over the military. A repeated and corrosive failure of past administrations has been to let the military write policy. The throwaway line of “listening to commanders on the ground” is an abdication of responsibility. Civilian leadership should set policy. That’s what civilian control of the military means. The President sets policy, and tells the military to carry it out. This idea of asking the commanders in Iraq what to do, getting a list of recommendations, and then saying, “Yup,” is an absolute betrayal of the constitutional structures in the U.S.
Conveniently, the recommended drawdowns in Iraq would coincide with plus-ups in Afghanistan, which tracks with the framework outlined by several leading Democrats, with only the specifics in play. Again, this should be signal of the need for wariness of apparently anti-war verbage coming from the Democratic party. The lesson learned by the Democrats, perhaps accurately, is that electoral success comes not from opposing all war, but from opposing “wrong” wars, while fighting The Right War. Those of us who oppose war should push back hard against what will be a tendency to portray anti-war sentiment as a narrow anti-Iraq-war sentiment.
The problem isn’t that the U.S. is killing the wrong enemies–along with the surrounding civilians–in the wrong country. The parable of the weeds touches on the issue of trying to force human society into a certain outcomes using violence:
Matthew 13:24-30, NRSV: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
Trying to rip out “insurgents” and “al-Qaida” from among the societies they live in inevitably results in uprooting the “wheat.” The parable is a warning that God will judge, but that we are to leave that judgment to God. We don’t have the judgment to know who should live or die, and even if we did we’d be unable to “rip them out” without killing the innocents around them.
The problem is that Christians are participating in the killing of any enemies at all, rather than loving them in a self-sacrificial way.