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Iraq Options: Go Big, Go Long, Go Home, Go Figure

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When the dust settled from the mid-term elections, Americans heard from a wide variety of Washington "experts" with strong opinions on the war in Iraq. The Washington Post reported that a top-secret Pentagon task force is reviewing strategies for Iraq. Insiders have dubbed the main options as: "'Go Big,' 'Go Long,' and 'Go Home.'" To these might be added a fourth option: Go Figure. It's impossible to understand the various strategies without knowing who's advocating each particular approach: Go Big is the option of increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. The champion of this strategy is Senator John McCain who argues there should be substantially more troops deployed. "I believe victory is still attainable,'' the Arizona Republican says. ''But without additional combat forces we will not win this war.'' Recently, McCain's been joined by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, "We're going to lose this war if we don't adjust quickly." For hawks, "go big," sounds good. It conjures up an image of the U.S, military regaining control in Iraq. However, most who've studied the quagmire reject this approach; they've concluded "there are not enough troops in the U.S. military and not enough effective Iraqi forces." "Go big" really means Talk Big. To pentagon planners the strategy Go Long means: "taking five to 10 more years to create a stable and competent Iraqi army" without a troop increase. They don't mention that this option requires billions in additional U.S. expenditures for infrastructure and troop deployment. At the moment, this is the Administration position, one that has yet to be embraced by any 2008 Presidential candidate. In reality, "go long" means, go beyond the 2008 Presidential election, when Iraq becomes the next administration's problem. According to the Washington Post, the preferred Pentagon strategy is a hybrid: Go Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long. This option "calls for cutting the U.S. combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of the training and advisory efforts. Under this mixture of options... the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period." Reportedly, this is the strategy favored by the Iraq Study Group led by Bush family consigliere James Baker. And, it's the position taken by GOP Presidential contender Bill Frist. It's a modification of Bush Administration's "stay the course" doctrine: gradually reducing troop strength, attempting to increase reliable Iraqi security forces, and retaining American bases. It should be called the Go Away option, because its core argument is that Americans should trust the Pentagon to do the right thing in Iraq and, therefore, quit bothering them for evidence that they know what they are doing. As portrayed by the Pentagon, Go Home denotes the "swift withdrawal" of U.S, troops. The Administration disinformation machine wants the public to believe this is the Democratic position. Of course, there are Democrats who advocate rapid withdrawal-Dennis Kucinich, for one-but most Dems favor "staged withdrawal." Recently, Senator Carl Levin, who's going to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 110th Congress, "has led the calls for a phased withdrawal, to begin within months, as a way to jolt Iraqi leaders into grasping greater control. 'If you don't do that, they're going to continue to have the false assumption that we're there in some kind of open- ended way,'" Many Democratic Senators have joined Levin. Among these is probable Presidential contender, Barack Obama. Recently, Obama called for a staged withdrawal, "beginning a reduction of troops in the next four to six months and pressuring Iraqis to work out agreements among their warring factions. 'Our troops can help suppress the violence, but they cannot solve its root causes.'" Leading Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton has also embraced this position: "I joined... the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House, in proposing a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq." Rather than "go home," this option would better be termed, Turn to Reality. It recognizes two essential truths about Iraq: the first is that there has never been a realistic plan for the occupation and the people in charge have proven to be incapable of preparing such a plan. The other is that Iraq has descended into civil war and there is no reason for U.S. forces to remain in the crossfire. Of course, there is another stance on Iraq, as there are quite a few Presidential contenders whose position remains incomprehensible. Republican candidates, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Connecticut Governor Mitt Romney, are clear only about two things: they don't agree with what George Bush is doing in Iraq and they support our troops. This option might be called, Go Figure. More than three years into the Iraq war, the United States remains bitterly divided. The Bush policy, Go For Broke, has failed. Unfortunately, it's the strategy Americans are stuck with until after the 2008 elections.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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