- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

President Bush faces a difficult task tonight when he lays out his new strategy for Iraq in a prime-time address, with the White House acknowledging that he needs to recapture public support for a war effort that has stumbled in the past year.

Mr. Bush is expected to announce an increase of up to 20,000 troops to help secure Baghdad, with the first wave to be shipped out this month and the rest prepared to deploy more gradually. He also is expected to lay out obligations for Iraq, in effect tying a deeper commitment of government leaders to an escalation of U.S. forces.

Public opinion polls show the president will have a tough sell.

A Gallup-USA Today poll taken over the weekend showed that 61 percent of Americans oppose a troop increase and 36 percent support it, and that Mr. Bush’s job approval for Iraq has dropped to 26 percent.

The White House yesterday said Mr. Bush has lost the country’s support.

“It’s important to bring the public back to this war and restore public confidence and support for the mission,” spokesman Tony Snow said.

Jeffrey D. McCausland, a defense specialist and former National Security Council staffer, said Mr. Bush will be addressing three audiences: Congress, which controls the funding; the American public, whose patience is slipping; and Iraq, which will have to exhibit a more solid commitment.

Mr. McCausland said he expects Mr. Bush to explain that Iraqis have to show they have earned a new wave of U.S. forces.

He said Mr. Bush must establish a measurement of progress in order to win public support.

The last time the U.S. announced a troop increase, Iraqis were to match it with six battalions but sent only two, he said.

“The real question is, the president’s in the middle of a moral dilemma. He has to threaten to do the one thing he’s said he’s ultimately unwilling to do, and that’s walk away from this,” Mr. McCausland said.

Democrats said Mr. Bush must prove that his policy is taking a new direction.

“Nearly three years after launching a war that has taken more than 3,000 American lives, cost more than $300 billion and left tens of thousands of Americans wounded, President Bush has an obligation to tell the American people how his new ‘strategy’ will diverge from his policies of the last three years,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Mr. Snow noted that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill sustained setbacks in war.

“Was Winston Churchill responsible for the Blitz? What Winston Churchill did was talk about the conditions for victory,” Mr. Snow said, adding that Mr. Bush is “adjusting and talking about conditions for victory.”

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