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U.S. Troops In Iraq: How Many Troops Are Necessary to Fight the Iraq War?

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U.S. Troops In Iraq: How Many Troops Are Necessary to Fight the Iraq War?

Iraq War troops--Staying or Going?

Courtesy of U.S. Defense Department
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Updated March 26, 2007

Democrats appear to be making good on their claim in the 2006 Congressional campaigns that, if elected, they would withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq. They are therefore also promoting (and reflecting) the view that the Iraq war is separate from the war on terror.

As of March, 2007, the number of troops in Iraq was still being debated: On March 23, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans Health and Iraq Accountability Act. The act provides supplemental funds for the war, establishes benchmarks for current deployment levels, and requires the redeployment (to surrounding countries) of troops begin by March 1, 2008, and be completed by August.

On March 26, the Senate began debating its own version of the bill, which mandates the withdrawal of troops from Iraq no later than March 31, 2008.

For a leadup to the current debate between Democrats and Republicans over the number of troops in Iraq, read on …

Fall 2006 Troop Number Debates: According to the Bush Administration, the Iraq War is a crucial front in the war on terror. There are 140,000 troops in Iraq. Should there be any? Republicans say yes; Democrats say no. And both sides grow more vociferous as 2006 Congressional elections draw near.

In his September 11, 2006 address, President Bush argued the United States' post 9/11 position is one of zero tolerance for state sponsors of terrorism. Because Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism, the United States was justified in invading.

The need to root out state sponsors of terrorism is the most recent justification for the war, but it has not been the only one. The original premise that justified the war in the minds of many people was that Saddam Hussein may have been connected to the 9/11 attacks, and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. These have both proven to be false claims.

The demonstrable falseness of these claims have led to the Democrats current position on withdrawal. They argue that that since the war is being fought on false premises, it is imprudent, unpatriotic and not least, dangerous, to permit troops to continue fighting it. In other words, there is no reason for troops to be in Iraq, if they are not fighting a war on terror. And if they are not fighting a war on terror, then what are American interests in the region?

The issue is: should American troops withdraw from Iraq? Here are the Democratic and Republican positions on the matter.

Latest Developments

Three weeks before the elections, on October 18, 2006, the New York Times reported that the G.O.P. has found itself in a newly defensive posture on the issue of troop withdrawal from Iraq.

As of this week, party officials said, Democratic candidates in at least 17 of roughly 35 closely contested Congressional seats and at least six of eight Senate races considered close are running television advertisements against the Iraq war, presenting viewpoints that extend to calling for a troop withdrawal.
More broadly, Democrats in all parts of the country, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Mexico are embracing the war issue.
“It’s not just the Northeast and the West Coast,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said. “It’s places like Virginia and Tennessee. Iraq and foreign policy are to a large extent albatrosses around the Republicans’ neck this year. And they don’t know what to do about it."

What changed? Several factors have changed. The Iraq war, now in its third year, has not turned out as the Bush Administration promised. The Americans were not greeted as liberators; democracy did not fall like a stack of dominoes across the Middle East; the troops not only did not come home, some are on second and third tours, and casualties have been on a steady increase.

Even more important, the Bush Administration has lost its capacity to claim a strong link between the war on terror and Iraq. There are a number of reasons for this. One of them, though many Americans might be loath to admit it, is simply the passage of five years between 9/11 and today. Yes, we do still remember. But, with no subsequent attacks, it is increasingly difficult to draw on the powerful emotions evoked by the attacks.

Stake

From the American perspective, whether you are for or against troop withdrawal, the stakes revolve around resources and security, and the relationship between them.

War costs lives
War is costly, in both economic and manpower terms. The first questions Americans sending their sons and daughters to war want to know is whether their lives are worth the values and resources being fought for in Iraq. This means understanding why the Iraq war is being fought, whether that reason is a good one, and whether it is worth dying for.

A second manpower question revolves around whether there are enough American troops to serve in Iraq and also serve in other potential conflicts or national disasters. The military is already stretched to capacity, and the draft has not appeared to be a viable solution. So policymakers--and the people who vote them into office--have to decide what their combat priorities are.

War costs money
The economic cost of the war is also an issue for Americans. The most recent Pentagon budget, which was close to $500 billion, included a $50 billion "bridge fund" to cover the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan organization, reported at the end of September 2006 that the cost of the Iraq war per taxpayer so far is $2,848.

The American role the world is at stake
The proper role of the American military is also, ultimately, at stake. When Americans decide whether they want troops in Iraq or not, they are also taking a step toward defining the role of the American military in world affairs in the 21st century. This is an issue that has concerned the United States since the end of the Cold War, since with its passing, the raison d'etre for the American military—keeping the world communism-free, also withered.

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