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The Way Forward in Iraq

Strategic redeployment of our troops in Iraq will make our nation safer from terrorist attack. Military escalation will only further damage our national security.

President Bush claims that a military escalation, or “surge” as it is misleadingly labeled, is the only viable plan for success in Iraq. He says it is irresponsible for congressional lawmakers to oppose his plan, adding that those who disagree have an obligation to offer an alternative.

Well over a year ago, the Center for American Progress released an alternative strategy for the war against global terrorist networks, Strategic Redeployment. Many of the ideas encapsulated in that report are now part of congressional legislation aimed at providing an alternative to the Bush administration’s military escalation plans. The Center then followed it up with a memo, The Critical Choice in Iraq, just last month, which again has helped define the debate in Congress.

These two documents outline the decisions facing Congress and the Bush administration and offer responsible solutions for redeploying our troops over the next 18 months and refocusing our military energies on our real terrorist enemies. Congress should be aware that there are viable alternatives to President Bush’s plan for military escalation as it considers various congressional resolutions this week that seek to counter the surge.

Sens. Biden (D-DE), Levin (D-MI), Hagel (R-NE), Kennedy (D-MA), Warner (R-VA), and others have all introduced, or planned to introduce, resolutions in opposition to Bush’s plan. As other elements of an alternative military strategy in Iraq become part of new congressional legislation, the Center for American Progress has also shown that Congress has more power to take control over the conduct of the war than the president suggests.

Broadly speaking, Congress can—and has in the past—condition, limit, or shape the timing and nature of troop deployments and the missions they are authorized to undertake; cap the size of military deployments; and prohibit funding for existing or prospective deployments. Congress and the American people cannot put our troops in morejeopardy by cutting off the funding needed for those already on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it should exercise its constitutional responsibility to shift U.S. policy in Iraq to a responsible path.

The path to success is clear:

  • Promoting a diplomatic surge and opposing military escalation. Rather than 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.
  • Ignoring the advice from those responsible for the Iraq quagmire. These so-called experts have consistently failed to realize the key realities of the Iraq conflict: that the fundamental security challenge in Iraq now 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. 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.

For complete details on the Center’s national security policy proposals please go to our National Security web page. For details on our SR2.0 plan, please go directly to that report on our Strategic Redeployment web page.

Contact our experts for additional information and comments:

For TV, Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy 202.682.1611 or sgibbons@americanprogress.org

For radio, Theo LeCompte, Media Strategy Manager 202.741.6268 or tlecompte@americanprogress.org

For print, Trevor Kincaid, Deputy Press Secretary 202.741.6273 or tkincaid@americanprogress.org

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