Just over a month after Americans spoke loudly and clearly that they wanted a new strategy in Iraq, if not the withdrawl of American forces from that war torn country, the new democratic majority leader, Senator Harry Reid has abdicated his leadership role by agreeing to a troop increase. Reports Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday he would support a short-term increase in U.S. troop numbers in Iraq being weighed by President George W. Bush if it is part of a broader withdrawal plan.
Bush has been talking with experts about a new Iraq strategy and a short-term increase in American troops to help make Baghdad more secure is one idea that has been presented to him.
“If it’s for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it’s part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I’ll go along with it,” Reid, who will become the majority leader when Democrats take control of the Senate next month, told ABC’s “This Week” program.
But fellow Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, when told of Reid’s comments, disagreed.
“I respect Harry Reid on it, but that’s not where I am,” he said. “The generals who have testified before the Armed Services Committee think that we would add to being a crutch for the Iraqi civilian government in not making the right judgments and decisions. I think that is a persuasive case and is one that I support,” Kennedy told Fox News Sunday.
What makes Senator Reid think he can trust George Bush on anything Iraq, is just beyond me. Bush has been wrong on almost every representation he has made before this war, during this war, up to and including the present. The Baker-Hamilton Commission has recommended that the United States begin a withdrawl of troops. General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George Bush, and more importantly former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff does not believe that an increase is a good idea, or that it will succeed:
(CBS) The United States is losing the war in Iraq but sending more troops to Baghdad is not the best way to change course, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Face The Nation.
Powell said he agreed with the assessment of the Iraq Study Group co-chairmen, Lee Hamilton and James Baker, that the situation in Iraq is “grave and deteriorating,” and he also agreed with recently-confirmed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the U.S. is not winning the war.
“So if it’s grave and deteriorating and we’re not winning, we are losing,” Powell told Bob Schieffer in an exclusive interview. “We haven’t lost. And this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around.”
But, General Powell was pretty clear that sending more American troops was not the answer. Rather, the answer lies with Iraqis, and not with the American military, which General Powell described as at the breaking point:
Powell, also a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not see the military benefit of flooding Baghdad with American 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,” he said, adding that the Iraqi government and security forces must take over.
“It is the D.C. police force that guards Washington, D.C., not the troops that are stationed at Fort Myer,” Powell said. “And in Baghdad, you need a police force to do that, and in the other cities, you need a police force to do that, and not the American troops.”
Powell also doubted that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are large enough to support such an operation.
“The current active Army is not large enough and the Marine Corps is not large enough for the kinds of missions they’re being asked to perform,” Powell said. “We need to let both the Army and the Marine Corps grow in size, in my military judgment.”
Asked directly what the U.S. should do in Iraq, Powell said:
“I think that what we should do is to work with the Iraqi government, press them on the political peace, do everything we can to provide equipment, advisers, and whatever the Iraqi armed forces need to become more competent, and to train their leaders so that those leaders realize their responsibility to the government.”
Powell, who as a member of the Bush Administration pushed the international community to sanction the invasion of Iraq, said that we are not safer now after nearly four years of fighting.
“I think we are a little less safe, in the sense that we don’t have the same force structure available for other problems,” Powell said. “I think we have been somewhat constrained in our ability to influence events elsewhere.”
General Powell has now publicly broken with the Bush Administration on Iraq, as have most Americans. Doing more of the same is just unthinkable. I am quite surprised at Senator Reid’s comments. This cannot be a good sign. Senator Reid, please remember what the American people said last month. Please remember the recommendations of a bi-partisan commission which has made its findings public. Please remember you have been placed in position of stewardship to exercise better judgment than what has been exercised in the past on Iraq. This nation has suffered a leadership vacuum for much too long. In short Senator Reid–please lead rather than follow.