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Iraq: No Blank Check

On Wednesday, President Bush is expected to deliver a national address announcing an escalation of tens of thousands of U.S. forces in Iraq.

On Wednesday, President Bush is expected to deliver a national address announcing an escalation of tens of thousands of U.S. forces in Iraq. A Pentagon official admitted to NBC News last week that the escalation is “more of a political decision than a military one,” favored because Bush “has few other dramatic options available to signal U.S. determination in Iraq.” U.S. troops should not be ordered into the deadliest hot spots of Iraq’s civil war so that President Bush can send a “signal.” Congress must hold Bush accountable to ensure that U.S. forces are deployed for the right reasons. Yesterday, Pelosi pledged that Congress not issue Bush a blank check. “If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it,” Pelosi said.

  • President Bush is not listening to the military’s views on escalation. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who publicly declared in December that he does not support escalation, “is caustic in private about the proposed ‘surge,’” Robert Novak reports. “Powell noted that the recent congressional delegation to Iraq headed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) heard from combat officers that they wanted more troops. ‘The colonels will always say they need more troops,’ the retired general says. ‘That’s why we have generals.’” For their part, the highest-ranking U.S. generals are still opposed to escalation. CBS News reported that commanders have told the White House they are prepared to execute a troop escalation of just 9,000 soldiers and Marines into Iraq, “with another 10,000 on alert in Kuwait and the U.S.”
  • What is really needed in Iraq is a diplomatic surge. There is overwhelming agreement that no military solution exists for the problems in Iraq. “You could put a soldier or a Marine on every street corner in Baghdad,” former Reagan assistant defense secretary and American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb said yesterday on CNN. “But until [Iraqi officials] make the tough political decisions that balance the power of the central government and the provinces, distributes the oil revenues, protects minority rights, until you do that, I don’t think it will make a difference.” For this reason, the Center for American Progress argued in a memo last month that “the United States should undertake a fundamental strategic shift centered on a political and diplomatic surge aimed at resolving Iraq’s civil war and stabilizing other parts of the Middle East.” (Korb and American Progress Senior Fellow Brian Katulis explain the diplomatic surge in more detail here.)
  • McCain’s numbers game doesn’t add up. Though Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is the most prominent advocate of escalation, his position on the issue is extremely hazy. In October, McCain declared that “another 20,000 troops in Iraq” were necessary to stem the violence. Five weeks later, that number shot up five times. “We must have more troops over there, maybe 20,000 more Marines, and 80,000 Army,” McCain said. “One month after that, McCain’s recommendation had dropped back down. “I would advocate two additional combat units in the Anbar Province, four in Baghdad with one in reserve. That’s about 30,000,” he told NBC News. On Jan. 4, during a Today Show appearance, McCain was asked, “Will 20,000 do the job in your opinion?” He responded, “I’m not sure. … To make it of short duration and small size would be the worst of all options to exercise, in my opinion.”

Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.