1. Don't go to war unless you have considered all other options, and there is no choice left.
2. If war is chosen, fight to win it as quickly as possible.
That seems the most moral course to me. But we keep getting it backward, getting into wars we have not thought through sufficiently, then fooling around with it until people turn against it, and we just call it quits. That wastes lives and gives us the reputation of not finishing what we start. If we think American values are important to advance in today's dangerous world, this is not a good way to be taken seriously as a nation.
March 31, 2008 -- mark that down as the date when the United States volunteers to lose another war:
The Senate defeated an attempt to erase an American troop withdrawal date from an Iraq spending bill this afternoon after an emotional debate about the powers of the presidency and Congress and the well-being of front-line soldiers.
By a vote of 50 to 48, the Senate allowed a withdrawal date of March 31, 2008, to remain in the $122 billion bill, which has yet to be acted upon. The majority defeated an amendment offered by Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, that would have removed the date.
The March 31, 2008, date is nonbinding, so the spending bill emerging from the Senate differs markedly from the version narrowly passed by the House last week that demanded a withdrawal by Sept. 1, 2008. Moreover, the margins in both chambers were far too narrow to override a veto promised by President Bush.
But this afternoon's vote, like the one last week in the House, reflect the power of the new Democratic majority in Congress, and the Democrats' determination to press their case against Mr. Bush's conduct of the Iraq war.
The details of D-Day, including the date, were a fierecely guard secret. Of course, we were trying to win that war. If you're trying to lose, there's no real point to secrecy. And if we're going to lose, we might as well lose now, before any more soldiers are thrown away. Let the dishonor begin.