The Critical Choice in Iraq

A Diplomatic Surge and a Strategic Redeployment or Military Escalation

A memo on Iraq from John Podesta, Lawrence J. Korb, and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress.

Read the full memo

As 2006 draws to a close, the United States faces a critical choice: a new strategy for regaining stability and making progress in the Middle East, or a military escalation in Iraq. President Bush sets the national security agenda, but the incoming 110th Congress will play a key role in helping shape the country’s deliberations over this critical choice. To us, the choices are clear:

  • Promote a Diplomatic Surge and Oppose Military Escalation. For the past month, the Iraq debate has been dominated by discussion of a possible military escalation, or the so-called “surge” option. Choosing this path would be simply doubling down on a failed strategy. Since last June, the United States tried a similar military escalation twice in Baghdad, and there is no compelling evidence indicating that a third time would be a charm. Rather that sinking deeper into Iraq’s civil war, 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.
  • Ignore the Advice from Those Responsible for the Iraq Quagmire. Supporters of U.S. military escalation in Iraq in 2007 are among the same pundits and so called experts who assured the president that the U.S. invasion was necessary; that the war would be a cakewalk; that we would be greeted as liberators; that we could rebuild Iraq at a cost of $1.5 billion a year; and that we could reduce our troop strength to 30,000 by the end of 2003. These pundits fail to recognize some key realities: that the fundamental security challenge in Iraq is a violent struggle for power; that the United States cannot solve Iraq’s problems militarily; and that the U.S. presence is fostering a culture of dependency and increasing the violence.

  • Exercise the Proper Constitutional Role of Congress in Guiding Iraq Policy. When Congress reconvenes, the Bush administration will submit a supplemental funding request to the defense budget of at least $100 billion to fund the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of FY 2007. Although the new Congress should not refuse to provide the funds that the troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan need, it can place an amendment on the supplemental funding bill that states that if the administration wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq above 150,000, it must provide a plan for their purpose and require an up or down vote on exceeding that number. In addition, it can place limits on the mobilization of Guard and Reserve forces, and vote on key aspects of U.S. funding, including U.S. taxpayer money that is going to provide weapons and training to Iraqi security forces. At minimum, Congress should increase its oversight and demand a full-blown, detailed plan from the Bush administration on how it is preparing to stabilize Iraq and address the growing problems in the Middle East.

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Lawrence J. Korb

Senior Fellow

 (Brian Katulis)

Brian Katulis

Former Senior Fellow