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December 12, 2006
No Reduction In Troops: Military

President Bush heard from his military experts about the situation in Iraq and the way forward to win the war. While they agreed with the Iraq Study Group's report on the current woes of the mission, they disagreed strongly with the ISG's recommendations for resolving them:

President Bush heard a blunt and dismal assessment of his handling of Iraq from a group of military experts yesterday, but the advisers shared the White House's skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, sources said.

The three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the study group's plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and to reach out for help to Iran and Syria, according to sources familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was private.

The White House gathering was part of a series of high-profile meetings Bush is holding to search for "a new way forward" amid the increasing chaos and carnage in Iraq. Earlier in the day, Bush met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other high-ranking officials at the State Department, where he was briefed on reconstruction and regional diplomatic efforts in Iraq.

The military experts met with Bush, Vice President Cheney and about a dozen aides for more than an hour. The visitors told the officials that the situation in Iraq is as dire as the study group had indicated but that alternative approaches must be considered, said one participant in the meeting. In addition, the experts agreed that the president should review his national security team, which several characterized as part of the problem.

The new review takes a narrower approach to Iraq, focusing primarily on the military and security issues and avoiding the political problems the ISG included. That might mean that the White House will adopt many of the ISG recommendations that pertained to internal Iraqi politics, such as oil revenue and job creation. Many of those deserve serious consideration, and they comprised the best part of the ISG effort.

The Bush team wants to come up with a new plan that will be obviously distinct from what they have done thus far in Iraq. However, unlike the ISG, they do not want to retreat and leave the field to the Iranians, Syrians, and terrorists. Bush understands that leaving Iraq as a failed state will create even more of an impetus for terrorism, both within Iraq and around the world. The oil revenue alone would cause an exponential increase in terrorist activity, and eventually we would have to return to Iraq once more in force to confront it.

One point brought unity among the speakers, and that was the need to replace the current national security team. The Washington Post interprets that as the dismissal of General Peter Pace as chair of the Joint Chiefs. It might mean something else entirely, however. With Donald Rumsfeld out, that may have been an approving reference to Robert Gates, as well as a call to clear out the other members of the National Security Council. It could also refer to the current National Security Advisor, Steven Hadley. The word "team" implies a higher level of concern and a broader selection of positions.

They demonstrated the one key difference between themselves and the ISG -- they're focused on victory, not retreat. Their recommendations are aimed at helping the US succeed in the war and to help the Iraqis secure their freedom, rather than some notion of retreat with honor. Abandoning the mission and our allies in Iraq will bring us no honor and will cripple our efforts to work with other nations to defeat radical Islamist terrorism in the future.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 12, 2006 6:43 AM

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