- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2007

The nation awaits President Bush’s announcement of a new strategy in Iraq, but the battle lines are drawn. On one side, there’s the president and a small number of courageous senators led by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, who understand that permitting ourselves to be driven out of Iraq by insurgents and militias backed by Tehran and Damascus is a recipe for catastrophe. Mr. Bush appears to be moving toward increasing the number of American troops to secure Baghdad, essential to a serious counterinsurgency campaign. The Iraqi people must be protected from Sunni and Shi’ite thugs.

The U.S. military has never made this a priority, focusing instead on training Iraqi security forces as quickly as possible. The first part of a comprehensive proposal for a new strategy in Iraq was made Friday by retired Gen. Jack Keane, who was the Army’s vice chief of staff under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the distinguished military scholar Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute.

On the other side of the debate, there’s moveon.org and the Democratic Party congressional leadership, baby boomers who came of age in the George McGovern/Jimmy Carter era of the party, who use terms like “phased redeployment” when they mean “retreat and defeat.” Theirs is a reprise of the debacle in Vietnam, for which they would blame Mr. Bush. The skeptics also include decent, honorable military men, some in uniform and others retired, who have persuaded themselves that dramatic changes in the policies that have not defeated terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are unnecessary, that if we continue to keep a “light footprint” of American troops and take a bit longer to train more Iraqis, the Iraqis can defend their country with much less assistance from American troops.

This is doubtful. Both of these approaches would result in the same thing, violence in Iraq continuing to spiral out of control, eventually becoming not retreat, but defeat, not only for America but for the West.

A considerable number of members of Congress — including Republicans who should know better — say they can’t decide whether sending more troops is a good idea because they don’t understand what these troops would do. These worthies would do well to get away from the pollsters and focus groups and educate themselves. They could start by going to www.aei.org and reading “Choosing Victory: A Plan For Success in Iraq,” which explains why military campaigns to stabilize Baghdad failed last year, and how additional troops are essential to a larger strategy that would give coalition forces a fighting chance to win.

We have one caveat with the Keane/Kagan plan. Given the violent, unpredictable nature of Iran and evidence of its role in arming both Shi’ite and Sunni terrorists in Iraq, it may be that more than 18-24 months and more than 30,000 additional troops will be required to secure Baghdad. But a serious discussion of what do do is crucial, and serious congressmen should join John McCain and Joe Lieberman. The Keane-Kagan proposal is a good place to start.

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