Strategy (n) - In military usage, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics. Strategy is the utilization, during both peace and war, of all of a nation's forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory. Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.Oregon Senator Gordon Smith made an astute poltical move following the election when he decided to break with the White House on Iraq. The war has become a political liability, and all the more so for red senators in blue states. Smith burnished his "moderate" cred by leading the charge, and must hope people remember his "courage" in two years. (The cynical among us might wonder how joining 70% of electorate on an issue represents courage, but then, we're just hacks and bloggers.)
But even if Smith has gotten leery about the quagmire of the sands, he hasn't been particularly adept at explaining what he would do instead. Yesterday he was interviewed by Lars Larson, and he had this to say:
Lars: Well then, do you favor a pull-out of American troops?
Smith: Not--I favor a repositioning, a new footprint in Iraq that does the things I've just described...
Lars: Where would you put them?
Smith: Well, I would put them on the near horizon, within Iraq, to continue to provide the things which are in America's interest to provide.
Again my cynicism rises--this looks a whole lot like trying to have it both ways--but I will try to stifle my dark suspicions and take the Senator at his word. He wants to bug out of Baghdad so that our troops, from a safe remove, might continue "to provide logistics, machinery, weaponry, sharing intelligence, and even provid[e] interdiction." For Smith, it's time for the Iraqis to "take this fight" because "this is their country." That's the plan? Fair enough.
But even so, these are merely tactics, not a strategy for Iraq. In fact, we have never heard a strategy for this war from the White House or its supporters on the hill. Troop movements are means to accomplish an end. But what end? This is the enormously difficult question, one that the White House has assiduously avoided discussing. Now that the solutions are few and bad, it will take real courage to offer a plan that must surely deliver far less than the White House has promised for the nearly four years of this debacle.
For Gordon Smith to be a real leader on this issue, he's going to have to step forward with more than a series of short-term tactics. What outcomes does he think are possible? What is the comprehensive plan he's offering to achieve them? Representative Blumenauer has such a plan in the hopper (I'll link it when the plan is online)--would Smith be willing to sign on with Earl? If not, what are his strategic goals and plan for accomplishing them? Until Senator Smith comes forward with such a plan, I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on his new transformation. Let's see some real courage first.