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January22, 2007: With Democrats in the U.S. Congress ready to pass a symbolic resolution against the troop surge in Iraq, there is an open question as to what other defense issues might be affected as a result of the changeover in Congress. While Iraq is the most prominent, there are other issues which may change, some of which have not had much coverage in the press.

Iraq, of course, is where a lot of the changes occur. The new majority's political base is hostile to the war. Many of the leaders have already expressed opposition to the decision to send additional troops to Iraq. However, the new majority is torn between those who want an immediate withdrawal (favored by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, among others), those who want to micro-manage operations there by setting a cap on the number of troops (Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Chris Dodd), those who really have no solution but plan to criticize anyway (Congressman Rahm Emanuel), and a few who support the President's plan (Senator Joe Lieberman).

Another issue will be the intelligence arena. Expect investigations into the NSA's efforts to eavesdrop on terrorist communications and efforts to track terrorist financing. Intelligence behind other decisions, like taking out Saddam's regime, will also be reviewed with a very critical eye aided by hindsight – and sharpened with a desire to score political points.

These hearings will be a sideshow that garners the spotlight. The real damage will come from various leaks. This is not to be unexpected. The new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is going to hold some of the hearings on the NSA's program is Pat Leahy, who was forced to resign from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1987 after leaks were traced to him.

The new Congress will also seek to alter the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Democrats want to make changes that will give detainees and terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay more access to the courts and American rules of discovery. In the past, this had led to intelligence being compromised.

The issues above will probably grab the headlines and the attention of editorial writers. Other areas won't necessarily do so. For instance, the Democratic majority will also be more skeptical of the Administration's push for a national missile defense. Some Democrats will even want to dismantle it. Other Democrats will want to restrict the ability of the military to use space.

The new Congress will mean a lot of changes for some military programs and priorities. In many cases, there will be a lot of conflict. The battles fought in the halls of Congress could very well have an effect on future battlefields abroad. – Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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