Rep. Adam Smith / Guest post:
Yesterday several of my colleagues and I met with President Bush and senior members of the Administration to discuss his plans for a “troop surge”. The meeting included the Vice President, Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates, and Karl Rove. Other members of Congress present included Representatives Skelton, Harman, Edwards, Reyes, Lantos, Dicks, and Berman.
I went to the meeting highly skeptical that escalating our troop presence in Iraq by approximately 20,000 personnel is the right answer in Iraq. I hoped to learn more about the administration’s thinking and to ask tough questions about his rationale. The President and his advisors laid out a plan to use a troop surge to support an Iraqi-led effort to “clear and hold” areas of Baghdad to help restore credibility for the Iraq government. They are obviously committed to their plan, but it was clear that they understand the hole they are in. There was no swagger – but it remains to be seen if they truly listen to Congress and to the American people who have deep and justified concerns about such an escalation.
After the meeting I considered the President’s argument and reviewed the available information, including the Iraq Study Group report. In the end, even though I gave the President’s argument due consideration, I don’t find it persuasive. A troop surge is not the answer in Iraq.
I’m concerned that the President continues to view this as a military problem, not a political problem. We have tried troop increases in Baghdad before with very limited results. We need to see from the Administration a real commitment to a broader diplomatic and political effort if we are to have any sense of minimal stability in Iraq. So far, the Administration has talked about such efforts, but not backed them up with resources and action. We simply cannot afford more of the same.
We also have to keep in mind that the global war on terror is exactly that: global. How does our commitment in Iraq affect our ability to prosecute the wider war? As I said yesterday in an interview, the recent air strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Somalia are a reminder that Iraq does not constitute the entire war on terror, and we have to remember that the battle in Iraq does not necessarily determine success or failure in the broader struggle.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll have the opportunity to participate in Armed Services Committee hearings, especially in the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities (which I will chair) to more fully examine the President’s plan.
I don’t want to put the troops in a political fight between Congress and the President, and Congress should carefully consider the consequences of any attempts to block funds for a surge. We cannot put our forces in Iraq at greater risk. But a troop surge is not the answer in Iraq.
Rep. Adam Smith
[Rep. Smith is a Democrat, representing Washington’s 9th Congressional District]