Take what we know and add to it

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I don’t know whether the President’s proposed troop surge in Iraq will work. None of us do. It may not be a perfect plan, but leaders can’t dwell on what we don’t know. We’ve got to use what we do know – making decisions that can produce positive results for our country. Having said that, here are the things we know:

President Bush is the Commander in Chief of our armed forces. The Senate is awash right now with non-binding resolutions about the Iraq War which basically mean nothing. Though they have no authority to stop it, some in Washington are trumpeting their opposition to the President’s planned troop surge in Iraq, yet are offering no alternative other than toothless resolutions rebuking the President.

All this hollow sound and fury does nothing to help our troops, nothing to help stabilize Iraq, but it sends a very poor message to our allies and enemies. America needs real plans that stand real chances of getting it right. Non-binding Senate resolutions can’t win battles. Our Commander in Chief has offered a plan that does stand a chance of changing the dynamics in Iraq and producing a positive result.

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General David Petraeus was confirmed as Commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq, which oversees all U.S. forces there, by an overwhelming 81-0 vote in the U.S. Senate. Senators of both parties and military experts throughout the globe recognize that General Petraeus is perhaps the world’s best commander in the type of anti-insurgency tactics needed in Iraq.

That is why he got an overwhelming, bipartisan affirmation two weeks ago when he was confirmed. Senators who voted with such confidence in this man should give him the resources and tools he needs to do his job with success.

Just as cutting off funds for our troops would send a bad message, ignoring our top general’s advice would be equally counter productive, especially as he is just now taking command. That, too, would send a mixed, negative message to our troops and our allies, and it’s all too obvious what kind of emboldening propaganda value this would provide our enemies.

The Iraqis have to do more. The failure or success of the budding Iraqi democracy will be in the hands of Iraqis themselves. I recently met with the Vice President of Iraq who asked me, “What’s the American strategy for Iraq?” “No, sir,” I bluntly replied. “The question is, what is the Iraqi strategy for Iraq?” I reminded him that the Iraqi government is his government and that Iraq is his country. I told him the American people expect the Iraqis to do more to solve their own security problems and address the warring factions in their own population. Iraqis must recognize the historic opportunity they have to create a free, prosperous nation. Only they can resolve to build it. No nation, not even America, can do it for them.

American leadership is crucial. America is almost alone in our ability and determination to fight terrorists and stand up to terrorist-supporting states. I recently met with a group of world leaders and asked them what they thought America ought to do in Iraq – stay or leave? They all said, “You can’t leave.” They feared our leaving would serve only to destabilize the country. When I asked what they thought we should do if we stay, they had no answers.

It’s up to us as Americans to help our troops better secure Iraq in the short term. And it’s up to the Iraqis themselves to create a successful, free and democratic nation for the long term. No American knows what the future holds, but we know that just quitting after investing so much treasure and lives isn’t a solution. We know we’re on the side of freedom. The only responsible option we have before us is to take that knowledge, add it to the other things we know, and move forward.

(Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office))