On balance, Senator Norm Coleman has been a great asset to the state of Minnesota. He has worked tirelessly for Veterans benefits, has been a staunch pro-life advocate, and has held true on many issues near and dear to the hearts of Minnesota's conservatives.
That is why it is at once vexing and frustrating to see the Senator running all over the road with regard to the great issue of our time, the Iraq Conflict. According to a Kevin Diaz piece in yesterday's Star Tribune (emphases mine),
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a consistent backer of the war in Iraq, on Tuesday pressed Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander, for a long-term plan that would include timelines for U.S. troop withdrawals.
"Americans want to see a light at the end of the tunnel," said the Minnesota Republican, who is walking a tightrope to the 2008 election. "We need to see some plan out there."
It was the first time he has publicly called on military leaders to attach specific dates to long-anticipated plans for drawing down troops.
If you'll recall, I wrote and sent an Open Letter to Senator Coleman one week ago, in which I excoriated Sens. Coleman and Warner for attempting to micromanage the war effort by calling for a "symbolic" troop withdrawal from Iraq by Christmas of this year. I have since received a response from Senator Coleman, also dated yesterday, September 11th. Embedded in the response was the following:
"What is clear is that we need to provide our troops on the ground with the resources they need to defend themselves. It is unfortunate that some insist on conditioning critical funding for our forces on arbitrary withdrawal timelines that would handcuff our generals and embolden our enemies. While I agree we need to continue to pressure the Iraqi government to move toward reconciliation, we also need to provide our military leaders with the tools they need to implement this strategy."
So which is it, Senator Coleman?
If, as you say, "...arbitrary withdrawal timelines...would handcuff our generals and embolden our enemies," why is it that you are calling for them?
As I stated in my letter,
"You seem to be trying to walk a fine line between pleasing the rabid anti-war folks who will settle for nothing less than unqualified defeat, and those of us who want to stay the course until the mission is complete.
In reality, you are "pleasing" neither side. In reality, you are only complicating things with rhetoric. Our enemy in Iraq (and, incidentally, around the globe) needs to hear the unequivocal message that there is no chance for him to succeed. He does not get that message when he hears heartening news that micromanaging politicians in the United States want to remove the force that is keeping him from achieving domination of Iraq and its oil-rich resources."
With all due respect, Senator Coleman, you are continuing to play both sides of the fence, and it's not very becoming of you. Furthermore, your rhetoric is serving to visit damage not only upon our efforts toward a stable Iraq in the short term, but also toward the long-term prosecution of the larger global war against terror in which we are engaged.
This "fine line" you have been treading as of late is beginning to look more like a superhighway; running headlong toward the views of those who pine for our unconditional surrender, and away from those who will settle for nothing less than unconditional victory and a stable Iraq.
Choose wisely your road, Senator Coleman. For your current path, however politically palatable it may seem, may in fact lead you to a dead end in terms of the support which conservative Minnesotans are willing to extend your way.