It is a hard thing to change course in the middle of a war. I commend President Bush for recognizing past mistakes in Iraq and for outlining new steps on the military, economic, and political fronts. I believe that together these moves will give the Iraqis and America the best chance of success.
We should make no mistake: Potentially catastrophic consequences of failure demand that we do all we can to prevail in Iraq. A substantial and sustained increase in U.S. forces in Baghdad and Anbar province is necessary to bring down the toxic levels of violence there.
There is much agreement that the dire situation in Iraq demands a political solution. That is true.
But we must also realize what it will take to enable any political solution: It is simply impossible for meaningful political and economic activity to take place in an environment as riddled with violence as Baghdad is today.
Security is a precondition for political and economic progress. Until the government and its coalition allies can protect the population, the Iraqi people will increasingly turn to Sunni and Shiite militias for protection.
Only when the government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force will its authority have meaning, and only when its authority has meaning can political activity have the results we seek.
The presence of additional U.S. forces in Iraq would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own: impose its rule throughout the country.
Senator John McCain
Republican of Arizona
Like millions of Americans, I listened intently to President Bush's address to the nation on Iraq. I hoped he would present us with a plan to make things better in Iraq. Instead, I fear that what he has proposed will make things worse.
Instead of a plan that would start to bring our troops home while leaving a stable Iraq behind, we heard a plan to escalate the warnot only in Iraq, but possibly into Iran and Syria as well.
President Bush plans to send another 20,000 American troops to Iraqmostly to Baghdad, a city of more than 6 million people, where they will have to engage in door-to-door combat in the middle of a civil war. We've tried such a military surge twice before in Baghdad, and it has failed twice.
If we try it again, it will fail again. That is because the President has it backwards. In Iraq, security is not a prerequisite to a political settlement. Rather, a political settlement is a prerequisite to security, and the President has no plan to produce a political settlement that will stop Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other.
This past November, the American people voted for a dramatic change in course in Iraq. The President said that he had heard them, but now it is clear he did not listen.
The goal should be figuring out how to bring our troops home while leaving behind a stable Iraq. Sending additional troops to Baghdad will place more Americans in harm's way, with little prospect for success.
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Democrat of Delaware