Outside editorial: An empty measure

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Orlando Sentinel:

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The U.S. House launched a welcome debate this week on the Iraq war. It's too bad three days of points and counterpoints will end in a vote on a pointless resolution.

The non-binding measure simply declares that Congress supports U.S. troops, but disagrees with President Bush's decision to send an additional 20,000 to Iraq. Members who vote for it can say they made clear their opposition to escalating an unpopular war, but didn't sell out the troops.

This isn't thoughtful policy; it's political cover.

In the Senate, a detailed resolution whose sponsors include Michigan Democrat Carl Levin and Virginia Republican John Warner, the chairman and former chairman, respectively, of the Armed Services Committee, is a more constructive response to the president's troop surge.

While the Senate resolution declares support for U.S. troops and opposition to the surge, it also points out "the long-term security interests of the United States are best served by an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself, and serve as an ally in the war against extremists." It advocates reaching that goal by encouraging Iraq's leaders to make the political compromises critical to promote reconciliation and security.

The resolution places the responsibility for dealing with Iraq's civil war where it belongs, on Iraq's armed forces. But it acknowledges a role for U.S. forces in battling terrorists, and in training and supporting Iraqi forces.

The resolution echoes an assertion Bush made in announcing the surge: The U.S. commitment to Iraq is not "open-ended." But the measure goes a step further by declaring U.S. help should depend on getting Iraq's government to agree formally to meet benchmarks. These include sending all the troops it has promised to Baghdad, fairly distributing the country's oil revenues among all its people, and letting the country's military operate without political interference.

Unfortunately, parliamentary maneuvering between Democrats and Republicans over the Levin-Warner measure and two other Iraq resolutions doomed a debate and vote last week in the Senate. The chamber's leaders need to work out a compromise that will allow a full discussion and roll call on all three resolutions.

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