As counterinsurgency experts tell Newsweek that Gen. David Petraeus' new plan for Iraq could have substantial numbers of U.S. troops in that country for five to 10 years, Democrats in Congress are going back to how it all started by drafting legislation that would repeal the 2002 use-of-force authorization.
As we've noted previously, Joe Biden floated the idea of a repeal in a speech at Brookings last week. His theory: The 2002 authorization is "no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq" because it was based on the desire to oust Saddam Hussein and claims about Iraqi WMD. With Hussein dead and the WMD not there, U.S. troops are now fighting in the midst of a civil war-plus -- dangerous duty that Congress never really authorized in the first place.
The Washington Post says that Biden and Carl Levin are drafting repeal legislation to share with their colleagues next week. John Kerry, who also has a hand in the drafting, tells the Post: "I've had enough of 'nonbinding.'"
Biden's idea is gaining currency, at least in part, as a response to complaints that other plans -- including the Nancy Pelosi/Jack Murtha plan to tie funding to troop readiness -- amounted to congressional micromanaging of the war. By going back to the start and addressing the issue of authorization, Congress takes a more macro approach; it's not fine-tuning the war effort so much as saying what the war should be.
It's not clear yet what a new authorization would say, but Biden laid out the general outlines last week: A new statement from Congress would "make clear what the mission of our troops is: to responsibly draw down, while continuing to combat terrorists, train Iraqis and respond to emergencies." It would also make clear what the mission shouldn't be: "to stay in Iraq indefinitely and get mired in a savage civil war."