Bush Turns To Expert Advisers Who Slam Phased Withdrawal, Advocate Escalation In Iraq

Yesterday, President Bush solicited the advice of five outside advisers on how to change course in Iraq. The group included Johns Hopkins Professor Eliot Cohen; Jack Keane, a retired army chief of staff; Stephen Biddle, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey; and Ret. Gen. Wayne Downing.

The Washington Post reported the advisers “shared the White House’s skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group” and “disagreed in particular with the study group’s plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq.” Below is a more detailed analysis of their positions:


— Critical of ISG Report: “I thought both the process was flawed, and the substance was flawed.” [MTP, 12/10/06] — In Favor of Escalation: “I would [tell President Bush] in terms of broad strategy, we are clearly at a crossroads…and, honestly, I’d rather win than control the narrative at the moment. …[To ‘win’], I suspect we’re probably talking about 20,000 or 30,000, something along those lines, a much more substantial kind of increase.” [MTP, 12/10/06]



— Critical of ISG Report: Gave the ISG report an “F” and said of the report, “I think it is wholly inadequate. It’s a cover story to accept defeat.” [ABC, 12/11/06] — In Favor of Escalation: “Keane is one of more than 150 experts the study group has interviewed, and he recommends that 40,000 additional U.S. troops be sent to secure Baghdad.” [ABC News, 11/12/06]


— Critical of ISG report: “Another outside adviser, Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the study group seemed to put a higher priority on getting out of Iraq than on stabilizing it.” [McClatchy, 12/12/06] — Open to Escalation: “If you could get a political deal by saturating Iraq with American troops, then it might make sense to do it even if you do fall to much lower levels afterward. But I haven’t heard anybody put forth an argument about what these troops are going to do while they’re there that will bring that about.” [SF Chron, 12/3/06]


— Critical of ISG Report: “They came up with a political thought but then got to tinkering with tactical ideas that in my view don’t make any sense. … This is a recipe for national humiliation.” [NYT, 12/7/06 — Opposed to Escalation: “[S]hould we reinforce with more US combat units? I think my answer clearly is no.” [NBC Nightly News, 12/11/06]


— No Public Position On ISG Report: “Retired Gen. Wayne Downing…doesn’t appear to have taken a public position on the report.” [McClatchy, 12/12/06] — Opposed To Escalation: “There is not a military victory. That is not in the cards. … More Americans are not going to solve this problem. In fact, they’re going to make it worse.” [MTP, 11/26/06]