The Troop Surge in Iraq

President Bush's decision to go forward with a "surge" of some 21,500 additional troops for the war in Iraq is, at best, a tremendous gamble. If it succeeds in finally quelling the violence in Baghdad, it could be worth the additional cost. If it doesn't, it could lead to the whole Middle East blowing up in our face. However, I don't think we really have any realistic alternative. Whether or not one considers ourselves having been misled into this war -- even while practically every major religious denomination denounced it as being morally unjustified -- America has taken upon itself the obligation to see this misadventure through to achieve the least possible amount of damage. Admittedly, even this result is a big order. In a war that has caused at least (even by President Bush's own admission) 30,000 civilian deaths -- but which may be a low estimate by a factor of ten or more -- the question remains as to how many more US servicemen and servicewomen are going to have to die or be maimed for life to achieve this result. The President has admitted that US casualties could, for the time being, become worse. So how long will this new period of time last? One Army general has suggested that it could be as long as two to three years. Much depends on the al-Maliki government. The special US Iraq Study Group Report, which allows for "a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad or to speed up the taining and equipping mission" (page 50) has made this clear: unless the Iraqis can meet certain "benchmarks" of progress in taking over responsibility for their country, including their own security, adding additional US troops runs the danger of only increasing their dependence upon the USA and prolonging the US presence in a way that will only make things worse -- both for Iraq and, in the long run, for the USA. Many in Congress are calling for immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Some are threatening to cut funding in a way that would force the administration to bring them home. A few are even talking about impeachment of the whole administration from the President on down. However, I do not believe that such threats accomplish anything constructive -- except perhaps to let off steam. It should be noticed that many of those uttering such threats had actually voted to give the President the power to go ahead with this war to begin with. Now it seems they want to blame him for everything that has gone wrong. Instead, I think that we have to, however reluctantly, see this whole thing through to the end. As General Colin Powell warned, even before we blundered into this mess: "If we break it, we have to buy it." So having broken Iraq, it seems that we are now stuck with the obligation to do our very best to put it back together again.

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