Details are creeping out about Congressman John Murtha's plan to put the clamps on the Iraq War (featured today on the Mother Jones News and Politics page), but I think many people lack a clear understanding of how the plan works.
The idea is to pass a series of small measures that curtail the president's ability to make war, while at the same time showing support the troops. This is seen as more likely to get through the House and Senate than a proposal to cut off funding for the war and is more politically advantageous for the Democrats.
Here's specifically what Murtha's plan would do:
(1) It would not allow American troops to deploy to Iraq unless they meet certain (very high) standards of manpower, equipment, and training. Murtha believes few of the units Bush intends to use for the surge would be able to meet his requirements.
(2) It will limit the length and number of deployments by soldiers in the American armed forces, thereby making it more difficult for the Pentagon to replace troops it rotates out of war zones.
(3) It will mandate that troops get a year off in between stints at the front lines.
(4) It would end the construction of enduring bases in Iraq.
(5) It would raze Abu Ghraib.
When taken together, the plan would limit the number of troops Bush has to work with, while blunting conservative criticism that the Democrats are anti-military or anti-troops.
The plan will be attached to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill that is needed to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan. Murtha controls the progress of that bill as chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee. In effect, if you aren't willing to support Murtha's plan, you are forced to vote against funding the troops. Not a good position for a Republican lawmaker to be in.
This should all come to a head in late February or early
April March when the spending bill needs to be voted on, after which point it would head to the Senate. Anti-war groups with deep pockets are preparing to roll out ad campaigns in favor of the plan, and will specifically target Republican Senators vulnerable in the 2008 elections.