OBAMA AND THE WAR….Barack Obama introduced legislation on Tuesday to wind down the war in Iraq. Here’s his description:

The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008….The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces.

I’m glad to see Obama taking an aggressive stand on this, but after reading his entire description I’m left wondering if it’s really as aggressive as he makes it sound.

Here’s the thing: I know that there’s a lot of chatter right now about exactly what Congress’s war powers are, but I honestly think that everyone talking about this already knows the basic answer: Congress can declare war, it has certain military rulemaking powers, and it can fund and defund a war. But that’s it. Like it or not, Congress simply doesn’t have the power to manage specific operational aspects of a war. Big Tent Democrat made the case for this a couple of weeks ago, and I think it’s pretty convincing.

Now, this is not a problem. Anyone who seriously wants us to withdraw from Iraq merely needs to introduce legislation defunding the war. Even Dick Cheney agrees that Congress can do this. But Obama’s description of his legislation very carefully avoids any mention of funding other than to explicitly say that it “does not affect the funding for our troops in Iraq.” (Italics mine.) Without that, he must know that his legislation is almost certainly futile.

I realize that in one sense this is all meaningless since George Bush will veto legislation of any kind that mandates an end to the war, whether it includes a funding cutoff or not. Still, I can’t help but get the feeling that this bill is carefully crafted to sound a lot more agressive than it really is. If Obama is serious about getting us out of Iraq, why not include the one thing that everyone agrees is a bulletproof way of accomplishing his goal?

As you may recall, I had the same complaint about his healthcare speech last week. I hope this isn’t a trend. Walter Mondale managed to crush Gary Hart pretty thoroughly in 1984 with his slogan “Where’s the Beef,” and I wonder if Obama is opening himself up to the same kind of attack this year. I’m starting to get a little antsy on this score.

POSTSCRIPT: The more I think about Obama’s war legislation, the more I’m genuinely puzzled by it. Am I missing something obvious? Help me out.

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