Sen. Dick Lugar
President George W. Bush's fragile political firewall
Tue Jun 26, 2007 18:27


Sen. Dick Lugar, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, called on President Bush to initiate a
change of course in ...


rise today to offer observations on the continuing involvement of the United States in Iraq. In my judgment, our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world. The prospects that the current "surge" strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic political debate. And the strident, polarized nature of that debate increases the risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interests in the Middle East. Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world.
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President George W. Bush's fragile political firewall

President George W. Bush's fragile political firewall against Iraq war critics was under siege Tuesday, after two Republican senators broke cover and called for changes in US strategy.

Senator Richard Lugar, a reluctant rebel and foreign policy expert, sent reverberations through Washington by warning the US plan to surge nearly 30,000 troops into the country would not work.

Fellow Republican George Voinovich, who like Lugar has resisted Democratic attempts to curtail Bush's war powers, meanwhile recommended a disengagement from Iraq as the White House warned of a "very difficult summer" for US troops.

Lugar said the United States had vital interests in Iraq, which included stemming Iranian influence, preventing terrorists from using the country as a launch-pad and maintaining stability and US prestige in the Middle East.

But while warning against a total troop withdrawal, the Indiana senator said, "in my judgment, the surge strategy is not an effective means of protecting these interests."

"Its prospects for success are too dependent on the actions of others who do not share our agenda. It relies on military power to achieve goals that it cannot achieve."

Voinovich, from Ohio, which has borne a heavy price in US combat deaths in Iraq, wrote to Bush to urge him to sketch a new war strategy.

"I submit to you respectfully that we must begin to develop a comprehensive plan for our countrys gradual military disengagement from Iraq and a corresponding increase in responsibility to the Iraqi government and its regional neighbors," he wrote.

"We must not abandon our mission, but we must begin a transition where the Iraqi government and its neighbors play a larger role in stabilizing Iraq."

White House spokesman Tony Snow downplayed Lugar's intervention, saying it was important to give the surge strategy time to succeed.

"Dick Lugar is a serious guy, so obviously you take it seriously. But on the other hand, again, he voted against the surge," Snow said.

But Lugar's and Voinovich's comments hinted at a softening of Republican backing used by Bush as a bulwark against attempts by the Democratic-led Congress to end the war.

Democratic Senate leaders, lacking the 60 votes needed to force Bush's hand, argue Congress will only have a decisive impact when Republicans desert the president on the war.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid Tuesday seized on Lugar's remarks, as he mustered his party for a new assault on Bush's war powers.

"When we finally end this war, and the history books are written, I believe that senator Lugar's words yesterday could be remembered as a turning point," he said.

"But that will depend on whether more Republicans will take the courageous first step that senator Lugar took last night."

Eyes are now on another veteran Republican, Senator John Warner -- as respected on military matters as Lugar is on foreign policy -- who may have the power to fracture Bush's Senate support base on the war.

Warner has expressed reservations over the Iraq war strategy, with legislation requiring Bush to report to Congress on developments there, but has not broken publicly with the White House so far.

In May, the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, also predicted a sea-change in Iraq policy.

"I think the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president himself to lead it."

Democrats are setting new snares for Republicans in the run-up to September, when the US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker are due to brief Congress on the surge strategy.

Seventy-four US troops have died in Iraq this month alone, as the total death toll since the 2003 invasion has hit 3,551, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

Snow warned of a grim medium-term outlook.

"Let's make no mistake about it, it's likely to be a very difficult summer, terrorists are going to do their very best to try to create very spectacular acts of terror," he said.


Richard G. Lugar, United States Senator for Indiana
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