The escalation of our troops in Iraq is a flawed strategy that the Bush administration has already tried and seen fail. The administration has “surged” troops into Baghdad twice in the past six months, yet the violence and death of Americans and Iraqis is increasing dramatically.
That’s why Congress must act swiftly to stop the escalation. Congress can and should use its power to cut off funding for troop escalation and begin the process of redeploying troops.
The Center for American Progress has detailed how to accomplish both of these moves (see The Critical Choice in Iraq and Congressional Limitations and Requirements for Military Deployments and Funding). But let us briefly review the reasons for doing so before the Senate votes on several measures to rein in the Bush escalation.
Additional escalation will create more targets, put more American lives at risk, increase Iraq’s dependence on the U.S., further undermine the precarious readiness of our ground forces, do nothing to help Iraqis settle their internal conflicts, and go against the will of both the American and Iraqi people. The only responsible course left is to strategically redeploy our troops out of Iraq and engage in a diplomatic surge that brings all six of Iraq’s neighbors—Iran, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait—into a constructive discussion about how to stabilize Iraq.
All American troops should be redeployed from Iraq over the next 18 months. This is the only way that we can regain control of our security interests. It is also the only leverage that we have to push the Iraqis to make the difficult political compromises that are necessary in order to begin the reconciliation process, including balancing the roles of central and provincial governments, distributing oil revenues, and protecting minority rights.
Until that reconciliation process is completed, the United States could put a soldier or Marine on every street corner in Baghdad without making any difference.
We must also engage Iraq and its neighbors in diplomacy. Our interests may not entirely align with all of Iraq’s neighbors, but none of the countries, including Iran and Syria, want to live next door to a failed state and a humanitarian disaster. To prove that we are serious about diplomacy, we must appoint a well-respected special envoy to the region; this person should have the stature of a former secretary of state.
Congress has an important responsibility to make America safer and more effectively advance our national security interests. Past Congresses have guided policy by limiting or shaping the timing and nature of troop deployments and the missions they are authorized to undertake, capped the size of military deployments, and prohibited funding for existing or prospective deployments.
Our representatives and senators must provide funding for the troops already in Iraq, but they can amend the $100 billion supplemental request the administration is expected to submit soon. Possible amendments could include: capping the number of troops in Iraq to prevent the administration from mobilizing National Guard and Reserve units for more than two years, even if they are not consecutive; requiring a new National Intelligence Estimate; and tying funding and assistance to Iraqi performance.
The Senate last week failed to bring to a vote legislation that would be an important first step toward stopping the troop escalation. The Senate voted 49 to 47—11 votes short of the 60 votes needed to proceed with a vote—on a non-binding resolution from Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) and backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that stated that the Senate “disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment” American forces.
Reid has stated that the Senate will wait until after the President’s Day recess to try passing the resolution again, which turns focus to the House, which will spend the majority of the week debating its own non-binding resolution against the escalation.
The House’s bipartisan resolution leaves aside any controversial decisions over war spending for a later discussion and states that “Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq,” and “Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 19, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.”
We must act swiftly to stop the escalation. President Bush has lost control of the situation in Iraq, and the 110th Congress has a responsibility to exercise the will of the American people and begin taking steps to make Americans safer. The Levin-Warner bill is the first step in that process..
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For more information see:
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.