As the New Year approaches, we are told that the President is considering the deployment of tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq in the desperate hope of subduing the burgeoning civil war there.
This is a chilling prospect that threatens to compound the tragic mistakes he has already made over the last four years.
In 2002, I strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq because I felt it was an ill-conceived venture which I warned would "require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undermined cost, with undetermined consequences." I said then that an invasion without strong international support could drain our military, distract us from the war with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and further destabilize the Middle East.
Sadly, all of those concerns have been borne out.
Today, nearly three thousand brave young Americans are dead, and tens of thousands more have been wounded. Rather than welcomed "liberators," our troops have become targets of the exploding sectarian violence in Iraq. Our military has been strained to the limits. The cost to American taxpayers is approaching $400 billion.
Now we are faced with a quagmire to which there are no good answers. But the one that makes very little sense is to put tens of thousands more young Americans in harm's way without changing a strategy that has failed by almost every imaginable account.
In escalating this war with a so-called "surge" of troops, the President would be overriding the expressed concerns of Generals on the ground, Secretary Powell, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and the American people. Colin Powell has said that placing more troops in the crossfire of a civil war simply will not work. General John Abizaid, our top commander in the Middle East, said just last month that, "I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future." Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff have expressed concern, saying that a surge in troop levels "could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda" and "provide more targets for Sunni insurgents." Once again, the President is defying good counsel and common sense.
As I said more than a month ago, while some have proposed escalating this war by adding thousands of more troops, there is little reason to believe that this will achieve these results either. It's not clear that these troop levels are sustainable for a significant period of time, and according to our commanders on the ground, adding American forces will only relieve the Iraqis from doing more on their own. Moreover, without a coherent strategy or better cooperation from the Iraqis, we would only be putting more of our soldiers in the crossfire of a civil war.
There is no military solution to this war. Our troops can help suppress the violence, but they cannot solve its root causes. And all the troops in the world won't be able to force Shia, Sunni, and Kurd to sit down at a table, resolve their differences, and forge a lasting peace. In fact, adding more troops will only push this political settlement further and further into the future, as it tells the Iraqis that no matter how much of a mess they make, the American military will always be there to clean it up.
That is why I believe we must begin a phased redeployment of American troops to signal to the government and people of Iraq, and others who have a stake in stabilizing the country - that ours is not an open-ended commitment. They must step up. The status quo cannot hold.
In November, the American people sent a resounding message of change to the President. But apparently that message wasn't clear enough.
I urge all Americans who share my grave concerns over this looming decision to call, write or email the President, and make your voices heard. I urge you to tell them that our soldiers are not numbers to add just because someone couldn't think of a better idea, they are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends who are willing to wave goodbye to everything they've ever known just for the chance to serve their country. Our men and women in uniform are doing a terrific job under extremely difficult conditions. But our government has failed them so many times over the last few years, and we simply cannot afford to do it again. We must not multiply the mistakes of yesterday, we must end them today.
May this New Year bring a turn in our policy away from the stubborn repetition of our mistakes, so we can begin to chart a conclusion to this painful chapter in our history and bring our troops home.
U.S. Senator Barack Obama