December 18, 2006

Changing Course In Iraq

Democrats won control of Congress in last month's midterm elections in part because of public dissatisfaction with Bush's handling of the war. More than half of Americans want to set a schedule to withdraw all troops.

Start with democracy, a word conspicuously deemphasized by Baker and co-chair Lee Hamilton in their Iraq Study Group report. They want Rice to talk with Iran and with Syria, which is busy undermining democracy in Lebanon. They speak more broadly for the burgeoning Washington consensus that the promotion of democracy in the Middle East was a dangerous pipe dream best abandoned before any more damage is done.

Iraqi troops, they are insufficient, incompetent, and many of them (are) corrupted.

Harry Reid, whose party campaigned in the November congressional elections on changing course in Iraq, said he would be open only to a short-term increase.

The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily.

Sen. Jack Reed, said that if it were a short-term increase, "won't our adversaries simply adjust their tactics, wait us out and wait until we reduce again? So I think you'd have to ask very serious questions about the utility of this."

Sen. Edward Kennedy, said, "I respect Harry Reid on it, but that's not where I am."

Kennedy, like Reed a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there would be widespread opposition by members of his committee if Bush proposed a troop increase.

Ex-secretary of state says U.S. is losing and a temporary troop boost won't help.

Former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell says the United States is losing the war in Iraq and victory, as traditionally defined by the Bush administration, is "not in the cards."

Powell, who resigned after George W. Bush's first term, also says he doesn't think a short-term surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad would work.

The surge option is said to be gaining favour in the White House as the U.S. president prepares to announce a new course in Iraq to the American people early in the new year.

Powell, in an interview on the CBS program Face the Nation, agreed with Baker and Hamilton that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating".

"If it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing," Powell said in his most extensive analysis of the war since he left office.

He said the U.S. should turn its attention to bolstering Iraq's government and training its security forces and police. Powell said Americans should start the "baton toss" to Iraqis by mid-2007, making the Iraqis responsible for their own security and well-being and starting the draw-down of U.S. troops.

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work," Powell said.

He said not only would it not improve the situation on the ground, the U.S. would pay for it further down the road because there would be no troops available to replace those sent in as part of the surge.

"There really are no additional troops," he said. "All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."

Powell said "if victory means you have gotten rid of every insurgent, you have peace throughout the country, I don't see that in the cards.

"What we are going to have to do is try to bring a sense of order and security to the country, even if there continues to be low-level violence and insurgency."

Powell has maintained a low profile since his departure from the Bush cabinet, but has weighed in at critical points during the debate over the war.

Powell, who had counselled caution about a unilateral move on Iraq and often clashed with Donald Rumsfeld's defence department.

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