WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For months, advisers to President George W. Bush have been trying to convince the commander in chief that more U.S. troops in Iraq will improve prospects for victory. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), both recently returned from Iraq (and a courageous surprise stopover in Ramadi, capital of bloody Al Anbar Province) also support adding more American troops. Unfortunately, they are wrong.
"I believe there is still a compelling reason to have an increase in troops here in Baghdad and in Anbar province in order to bring the sectarian violence under control," McCain said after his visit. For his part, Lieberman said the idea of sending another 30,000 troops to Iraq is "exactly" the course of action he hopes to see the president take.
McCain and Lieberman talked to many of the same officers and senior NCOs I covered for FOX News during my most recent trip to Iraq. Not one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen or Marines I interviewed told me that they wanted more U.S. boots on the ground. In fact, nearly all expressed just the opposite: "We don't need more American troops, we need more Iraqi troops," was a common refrain. They are right.
The call for incrementally increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq -- a "solution" that was first proffered last summer as the congressional election campaign heated up -- sounds eerily like Lyndon Johnson's plan to save Vietnam in the mid 1960s. Johnson saw "gradual escalation" as a way not to lose, and to avoid the unpleasant necessity of directly confronting North Vietnam. Regrettably, that also meant we could not win.
Adding 10,000 or 20,000 more U.S. combat troops -- mostly soldiers and Marines -- isn't going to improve Iraqi willingness to fight their own fight -- an imperative if we are to claim victory in this war. While putting 200,000 American or NATO troops on the Iranian and Syrian borders to stop infiltration might make sense, that's "mission impossible" given the size of U.S. and allied armed forces.
A "short-duration surge" in U.S. combat strength also ignores progress that is being made on the ground in places like Al Anbar province, where few of the so-called mainstream media dare to spend much time. In Ramadi, long a hotbed of Sunni terrorism, new National and Provincial police forces are increasingly effective. Calling themselves "The Sons of Al Anbar," thousands of young Iraqi males have volunteered to defend their cities, villages, homes and families from terrorists.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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