Today, McNamee had a post up at The Party of Know that discusses Roth's position in detail, I urge you to read the whole thing. I'm personally skeptical that a continued presence in Afghanistan serves our national interest. Not being a veteran, I'm willing to give wide latitude to those who have served, like Roth and McNamee, but that doesn't mean I can't, respectfully, question their position.
From the outset, I want to say that I'm convinced by their argument that a vote against the supplemental does not undercut funding for troops currently in combat. It appears that a vote against the supplemental simply wouldn't fund the expansion of troops that Obama proposed.
One of Roth's objections to the Obama expansion is that it wasn't for the full amount of troops that General Stanley McChrystal, at the time commander of forces in Afghanistan, requested. Obama's troop increase was for 30,000 troops, or 3/4 of what McChrystal requested. So in response to a reduction of 25% in the troop amount, Roth would not vote to fund any of the troops. My first question is does Roth believe that McChrystal himself would agree that Congress should not fund the troop increase, even in its reduced form? That is to say, did McChrystal see his troop request as an all or nothing proposal?
My second question is, if deference to the ground commander is important, then doesn't the commander's opinion on the overall troop level carry weight when deciding how to vote on the supplemental?
Here is current commander in Afghanistan General David Petreaus:
“We have to - absolutely must – remain committed to reducing the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum in the conduct of our operations,” he said. “In fact, [the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan] actually recognized recently in a report that even as we have tripled the number of U.S. forces on the ground, the number of civilian casualties has gone down by 30 percent, which is a pretty extraordinary achievement, frankly, and something we must stay committed to.”
The biggest issue, Petraeus said, was the resources devoted to the effort in Afghanistan. In January 2009, he said, U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan numbered roughly 30,000, and that number soon will be more than 98,000. The number of civilians has been tripled, he added, and funding has been provided for 100,000 additional Afghan security forces.
“What that is enabling us to do for the first time here is to carry out a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign,” Petraeus said.
General Petreaus believes that the increase in troops to the 98,000 level is important for carrying out the counterinsurgency strategy, but this apparently doesn't persuade Roth enough to come out in support of the supplemental.
I realize the Congress has the power to declare war and the power of appropriations, but where does the use of these powers cross over into dictating wartime strategy and tactics?
These are all incredibly tough questions, and I don't pretend to have the answer. I'll just add that Roth's stance on this point is by no means a deal-breaker, but it certainly is thought-provoking.