Weigh Iraq strategy carefully

Published 2:59 am Monday, January 15, 2007

By Staff
On Jan. 10, President Bush addressed the nation to outline the new way forward in Iraq. While I have expressed concerns about our ongoing military operations in the Middle East, I believe we must carefully examine this new strategy.
It is essential that our presence in Iraq be weighed against the achievability of our long-term goals for Iraq and its people.
The president's plan provides a strategy that goes further than simply sending more American servicemembers into combat.
It addresses both the political and military operations necessary to follow through on our obligation to bring about stability in Iraq. But it is not without risk.
The American people have become discouraged by the political miscalculations and lack of progress that we have made since the initial fall of Baghdad, and understandably so.
But let's be clear - the consequence of failure in Iraq is the strengthening and growth of radical extremists that seek to destroy the freedoms we hold dear.
While no one wants our military personnel to be in harm's way, increasing the American military presence in Baghdad and the surrounding region is a justifiable measure if they are given a clearly defined mission and achievable military objectives.
However, our struggles in Iraq have proven that we cannot do it alone.
Victory in Iraq will ultimately rest with the Iraqi government and its people. It is the Iraqis who must continue to work aggressively to rid their country of Islamic extremists intent on destroying security and democracy in the Middle East and around the globe.  
While we have just begun to debate the intricacies of this new strategy, our commitment to our servicemembers must remain strong.
The members of the United States armed forces willingly face grave dangers for each and every one of us.
It is vital to continue to support the troops by ensuring that they have the best equipment, best supplies, and best leadership necessary to get the job done.  
I acknowledge that there are different view points within Congress about our way forward in Iraq, but Congress should never let political infighting lead to bartering for bullets. Cutting off funding for our troops should never be an option.  
This is not a war that will be won overnight and it is dangerous to believe that if we set an artificial timeline to withdraw troops from Iraq that the terrorist violence would not follow us home.  
Allowing Iraq to become a safe haven for radical extremists is a threat not only to the safety and security of the United States, but to the entire free world.
It is essential that we follow through on our obligation to bring about stability in Iraq and establish an environment where its political and economic structures will succeed.
While no one can guarantee success, quitting now most certainly would assure failure.  
Richard Shelby represents Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

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