September 19, 2007

The Webb Amendment - Good Riddance

Today the Webb Amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill failed - good news. This was a disingenuous effort to undermine the administration's and specifically the Pentagon's ability to prosecute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wrapping in the mantle of support for the troops and their families is political theater. Note Senator Webb's portrayal of this as an effort to support the troops and their families by the use of such phrases as "as much time at home as deployed to Iraq."

In fact, the actual text of the amendment does not say anything about troops being "home." It states, "No unit or member of the Armed Forces...may be deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom unless the period between the deployment of the unit or member is equal to or longer than the period of such previous deployment."

Military units and personnel do not stay at "home" when not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. They deploy to training locations, schools, other missions - all part of the "ops tempo" that keeps them away from families. Under the rules proposed by the Webb Amendment, there would be no prohibition from deploying a unit (or member) returning from Iraq from being almost immediately deployed to Korea for a one-year remote tour, then deployed back to Iraq - this would meet the letter, although certainly not the spirit of the proposed amendment. Things like this would have been the unintended consequences of the Webb Amendment, and probably would have happened as the amendment robbed the Pentagon of flexibility in moving troops as needed.

The notion that the Congress is more concerned about the welfare of troops and their families than the military officers at the Pentagon is ludicrous. An overwhelming majority of Senators and Representatives have never worn the uniform of their country, let alone heard a shot fired in anger. I will be the first to acknowledge Senator Webb's distinguished combat record, but the officers at the Pentagon spend, and have spent, their adult lives in military service.

Senator Jim WebbHowever, Webb's comments to Senator John McCain, whose military credentials are above reproach, that John McCain should read the Constitution are offensive. Perhaps Senator Webb might read the sections that state that Congress raises armies, and the President is the commander in chief. I think that deploying troops is the function of the commander in chief.

Senator Webb is an American hero, fervently believes in his cause (declare defeat and come home) and makes his case with passion.

He is a patriot, but he's wrong.