Advice on Iraq for the New Pentagon Chief

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that the idea of stabilizing Iraq with a temporary increase of combat troops is now at the center of the policy debate.

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DANIEL SCHORR: In his confirmation hearing on December 5th, Defense Secretary Robert Gates won some senatorial kudos for candor when he testified, frankly, there are no new ideas on Iraq.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Having said that, Secretary Gates now goes to join to search for new ideas for President Bush's long delayed new strategy. The word du jour is surge - defined by the Iraq Study Group, a short-term redeployment of combat troops to stabilize Baghdad or to speed up training and equipping of Iraqi troops if the U.S. commander determines that to be effective.

The trouble is, that there is no sign that a surge will be effective. Former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell said on CBS yesterday that the Army was about broken, and he was not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad to suppress the civil war would work.

In the New York Times today, Marine Major Ben Connable describes how the 7th Marine Regiment tried to overwhelm an insurgent group in the east of Anbar province, leaving another area unprotected. He says the consequences were bloody. Insurgents assumed control of several towns and villages. They tortured and executed police officers, local politicians, friendly tribal leaders.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who, like her predecessor, Colin Powell, has not been heard much in the current debate on Iraq strategy, has also begun to speak out. Interviewed by the Washington Post, she said the United States needs to act smartly, and avoid being drawn back into a search for a stability that no longer exists.

But the surge idea continues to figure in discussion inside and outside the administration. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reed says he would go along with a temporary troop increase in Iraq if it were part of a broader strategy to bring forces home by early 2008. I imagine you'll be hearing a lot more about the surge early in the New Year, no doubt, some of it, from Secretary Gates.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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