In a recent front-page story, the Washington Post newspaper reported the White House and Joint Chiefs of Staff are at odds over sending 15,000 to 30,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. While the newspaper account is based on anonymous sources, some retired U.S. military officers have been openly voicing their opinions about policy options in Iraq.
President Bush says the United States is neither winning, nor losing in Iraq and he is considering a temporary increase, or surge, of U.S. troop strength to reverse the deteriorating situation.
Retired General Colin Powell, who served as President Bush's secretary of state and was previously chairman of the Joint Chiefs, says there needs to be a clear understanding of why additional troops would be sent and for how long. He spoke on the CBS television network program, "Face the Nation." "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work."
President Bush says he values the advice of his military commanders in Iraq. But Powell notes those commanders have not called for a troop increase, nor have Iraqi leaders. "We hear from the Iraqi leadership that they want to take control of Baghdad, not bring in more American troops. We hear from Prime Minister Maliki standing next to President Bush in Amman, Jordan a couple of weeks ago, that he believes Iraqi forces will be able to take over all security by June."
The former Secretary of State cautions the U.S. Army is nearly broken from repetitive tours of duty in Iraq. Nonetheless, Senator John McCain, a former Navy pilot and the longest-held U.S. prisoner of war in Vietnam, says nothing is more stressful than defeat, and Iraqi troops need U.S. assistance. "We all know that the Iraqi military is not capable of doing by themselves now, period. So, then it requires Americans to be able to do it with them."
Retired General Jack Keane, the Army's former Vice Chief of Staff, also favors a troop surge. Keane says America faces a choice in Iraq and needs the additional forces to secure victory.
"So our choice is, can we do something about this in the intervening year, and make a difference and buy some time so that a political, diplomatic and economic strategy will work, or do we just cut our losses and walk away from it?"
Retired General William Odom says, yes, cut the losses. Odom, the Army's senior intelligence officer in the mid 1980s, says leaving Iraq will prevent further damage to America's strategic positions.
"The only way out of this is to admit that we are going to live with these consequences, and that the sooner we leave, the quicker we will be able to regain some diplomatic and strategic mobility and begin to come to terms with countries in the area and with our allies in Europe and East Asia, where they have soured as a result of our unilateralism."
General Odom says additional troops will not establish constitutional order in Iraq, because the country's ethnically and religiously fragmented elites cannot agree on fundamental rules. "Rules to decide who rules. Rules to make new rules. And rights the ruler cannot abridge."
General Odom says rules are enforced by those who have the guns and money to do so. He calls the U.S. invasion of Iraq a "fool's errand" that was doomed from the start. But President Bush says the United States will win in Iraq. The troop surge he is considering would also add guns to help stabilize the situation.