Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world,” and suggesting that “The prospects that the current 'surge' strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic political debate.” He adds that “the strident, polarized nature of that debate increases the risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interests in the Middle East. Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of United States national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world.
The current debate on Iraq in Washington has not been conducive to a thoughtful revision of our Iraq policy. Our debate is being driven by partisan political calculations and understandable fatigue with bad news -- including deaths and injuries to Americans. We have been debating and voting on whether to fund American troops in Iraq and whether to place conditions on such funding. We have contemplated in great detail whether Iraqi success in achieving certain benchmarks should determine whether funding is approved or whether a withdrawal should commence. I would observe that none of this debate addresses our vital interests any more than they are addressed by an unquestioned devotion to an ill-defined strategy of so-called “staying the course” in Iraq.
In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.
I do not come to this conclusion lightly, particularly given that General Petraeus will deliver a formal report in September on his efforts to improve security. The interim information we have received from General Petraeus and other officials has been helpful and appreciated. I do not doubt the assessments of military commanders that there has been some progress in security. More security improvements in the coming months may be achieved. We should attempt to preserve initiatives that have shown promise, such as engaging Sunni groups that are disaffected with the extreme tactics and agenda of Al Qaeda in Iraq. But three factors – the political
fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military, and the constraints of our own domestic political process -- are converging to make it almost impossible for the United States to engineer a stable, multi-sectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable time frame…
[T]he issue before us is whether we will refocus our policy in Iraq on realistic assessments of what can be achieved, and on a sober review of our vital interests in the Middle East. Given the requirements of military planners, the stress of our combat forces, and our own domestic political timeline, we are running out of time to implement a thoughtful Plan B that attempts to protect our substantial interests in the region, while downsizing our military presence in Iraq.
We need to recast the geo-strategic reference points of our Iraq policy. We need to be preparing for how we will array U.S. forces in the region to target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict, and generally reassure friendly governments that the United States is committed to Middle East security. Simultaneously, we must be aggressive and creative in pursuing a regional dialogue that is not limited to our friends. We cannot allow fatigue and frustration with our Iraq policy to lead to the abandonment of the
tools and relationships we need to defend our vital interests in the Middle East.
If we are to seize opportunities to preserve these interests, the Administration and Congress must suspend what has become almost knee-jerk political combat over Iraq. Those who offer constructive criticism of the surge strategy are not defeatists, any more than those who warn against a precipitous withdrawal are militarists. We need to move Iraq policy beyond the politics of the moment and re-establish a broad consensus on the role of the United States in the Middle East. If we do that, the United States has the diplomatic influence and economic and military power to strengthen mutually beneficial policies that could enhance security and prosperity throughout the region. I pray that the President and the Congress will move swiftly and surely to achieve that goal.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Lugar Calls For Shift In Iraq Policy
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) made a major speech on the floor of the Senate tonight calling for a new direction in Iraq. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Majority Whip, praised Lugar and likened his speech to one given by Sen. Robert Kennedy on the floor of the Senate 40 years ago about the need to end our military involvement in Vietnam. The language of Lugar's speech is a little too convoluted for my taste, but it's significance cannot be underestimated. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Bush administration can ill-afford to lose Lugar's support. The fact the President can no longer count on Lugar's support suggests big changes are ahead. The Indiana Daily Insight has the following excerpt from Lugar's speech: