Bush Rejects Ideas That 'Lead to Defeat' in Iraq

After meeting with Pentagon leaders, President Bush says he would continue to develop his own review of the war policy in Iraq. The president rejected ideas he had heard from some unnamed quarters that would, he said, "lead to defeat."

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

President Bush has continued his talks about the war in Iraq. Today he was at the Pentagon. He met with outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, the man who will replace Mr. Rumsfeld next Monday. They talked for an hour behind closed doors.

NPR's Guy Raz reports from the Pentagon.

GUY RAZ: The president is hearing all kinds of recommendations and suggestions these days about Iraq. In fact, every day this week he's either taken a local field trip to one of the cabinet agencies or he's invited experts over to the White House. Today, it was a skip across the Potomac to the Pentagon and talks with the top military commanders. After the meeting, the president answered a few questions from reporters and he didn't hide his annoyance with some of the recommendations he's heard in the past week.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I've heard some ideas that would lead to defeat and I reject those ideas. Ideas such as leaving before the job is done. Ideas such as not helping this government take the necessary and hard steps.

RAZ: The latest buzz swirling around the gossip shop inside the Pentagon is a proposal to temporarily increase troop levels in Iraq.

Mr. STEPHEN BIDDLE (Military Analyst): Clearly, lots of people around town are talking about surges.

RAZ: This is Stephen Biddle. He's a military analyst who's important enough to be consulted by the White House. Earlier this week, Biddle went there to give the president his assessment of what can be done.

Mr. BIDDLE: All of the options on the table have a pretty low chance of success, unfortunately.

RAZ: The main options, in a nutshell, that have been laid at the president's feet are either getting most troops out by early 2008 or actually increasing troop numbers with the hope that more of them could crush the insurgency. The idea behind a temporary increase has to do with tactical mistakes made in the past, says Stephen Biddle.

In other words, what traditionally happens in Iraq is that troops stationed in one place, say Anbar Province, might be moved to a hot spot like Baghdad. Baghdad then calms down for a bit, but Anbar flares up.

Mr. BIDDLE: We've been robbing Peter to pay Paul for years, doing one of several mutually necessary things, because we can't afford the troops required to do them all at once. That's been a huge problem.

And so the short term solution to the problem, say some top military commanders are two words - extend and accelerate. Here's retired General Jack Keane, who can explain it a bit better.

General JACK KEANE (Retired, U.S. Army): You'd extend the troops that are there and accelerate the ones that are not, that are due to come in. Get yourself about five brigades for Baghdad.

RAZ: General Keane was also at the White House this week. He thinks a troop surge is a good idea. Here's how it would work. About 20,000 troops that are currently training to go to Iraq would go sooner, maybe early next year. At the same time, about 20,000 troops currently in Iraq and scheduled to go home soon would be extended for a few months. Think of it as one last roll of the dice, says Stephen Biddle.

Mr. BIDDLE: What you're doing is taking a gamble that a reinforced effort can succeed. There's no guarantee. There's no guarantee that any policy in Iraq will work at the moment. What you're doing is you're taking a shot at something that you hope will succeed.

RAZ: But if the idea takes off, it has to succeed, or at least that's what military analysts close to the White House are saying because if it doesn't, the only game in town will likely be a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Guy Raz, NPR News, the Pentagon.

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