Good Money After Bad
President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.
The request — which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.
The request is being prepared now in the belief that Congress will be unlikely to balk so soon after hearing the two officials argue that there are promising developments in Iraq but that they need more time to solidify the progress they have made, a congressional aide said.
For those of you scoring at home, a little perspective:
In Fiscal Year 2006, the U. S. Government spent $406 Billion of your money on interest payments* to the holders of the National Debt. Compare that to NASA at $15 Billion, Education at $61 Billion, and Department of Transportation at $56 Billion.
If we weren’t surging in Iraq we could use this money to…take your choice…nearly double spending on education or transportation. Or, we could pay off some of that staggering debt. If you don’t think this money is for the surge, Ricks makes it clear.
Most of the additional funding in a revised supplemental bill would pay for the current counteroffensive in Iraq, which has expanded the U.S. force there by about 28,000 troops, to about 160,000. The cost of the buildup was not included in the proposed 2008 budget because Pentagon officials said they did not know how long the troop increase would last. The decision to seek about $50 billion more appears to reflect the view in the administration that the counteroffensive will last into the spring of 2008 and will not be shortened by Congress.
Translation: The Bush administration has looked at Congress and found them completely supine. They are announcing victory before Congress even gets a chance to reconvene. Maybe they think the scalps of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales are worth another Friedman Unit and 50 billion dollars. Maybe so. But are they worth one additional soldier’s life?
That depends on the NIE and the testimony of Crocker and Petraeus. The NIE said the political front will deteriorate over the next year, and Petraeus has been telling anyone who will listen that he needs about ten years to win this counterinsurgency war. If it takes ten years that might take things a bit past next April.
Despite widespread media anticipation of next month’s Iraq hearings, Pentagon insiders say they do not expect them to result in any major changes in military strategy. The sessions are expected to occur the week of Sept. 10, with Petraeus and Crocker appearing before a total of four committees in the House and Senate.
“I don’t see any surprises” coming out of the hearings, said an officer on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said he expects Petraeus and Crocker to focus on tactical security gains in and around Baghdad in recent months and on shifts in tribal allegiances in favor of U.S. forces, and to argue that those improvements may open a window for greater political reconciliation in Iraq over the next six or seven months.
In any event, this officer said, he expects the current counteroffensive to be maintained into next April. “The surge was designed to last for a year,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll change that.”
But don’t let yourself get to be feeling down about all of this. Someone’s on the case.
“We haven’t seen the details, but we’ll give it the scrutiny it deserves,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). “It’s long past time for giving blank checks to the administration.”
I think I’ve heard that promise before.