Longtime Bush administration supporter Sen. Richard Luger (R-IN) gave a speech on the Senate floor yesterday in which he called for the Bush administration to change their Iraq strategy so that it meets up with U.S. interests. Luger warned his colleagues, “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. The current debate on Iraq in Washington has not been conducive to a thoughtful revision of our Iraq policy.”

He continued,”Our debate is being driven by partisan political calculations and understandable fatigue with bad news — including deaths and injuries to Americans… I would observe that none of this debate addresses our vital interests any more than they are addressed by an unquestioned devotion to an ill-defined strategy of “staying the course” in Iraq.” Luger went on to call the current administration policy unsustainable. He said, “In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.”

He also suggested that, “We should attempt to preserve initiatives that have shown promise, such as engaging Sunni groups that are disaffected with the extreme tactics and agenda of Al Qaeda in Iraq. But three factors – the political fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military, and the constraints of our own domestic political process — are converging to make it almost impossible for the United States to engineer a stable, multi-sectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable time frame.”

In Luger’s view, most Iraqis don’t want to be Iraqis. “Few Iraqis have demonstrated that they want to be Iraqis. We may bemoan this, but it is not a surprising phenomenon. The behavior of most Iraqis is governed by calculations related to their history, their personal safety, their basic economic existence, and their tribal or sectarian loyalties. These are primal forces that have constrained the vision of most ordinary Iraqis to the limits of their neighborhoods and villages.” 

“In this context, the possibility that the United States can set meaningful benchmarks that would provide an indication of impending success or failure is remote. Perhaps some benchmarks or agreements will be initially achieved, but most can be undermined or reversed by a contrary edict of the Iraqi government, a decision by a faction to ignore agreements, or the next terrorist attack or waive of sectarian killings,” Luger said

Luger concluded, “We need to recast the geo-strategic reference points of our Iraq policy. We need to be preparing for how we will array U.S. forces in the region to target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict, and generally reassure friendly governments that the United States is committed to Middle East security. Simultaneously, we must be aggressive and creative in pursuing a regional dialogue that is not limited to our friends. We cannot allow fatigue and frustration with our Iraq policy to lead to the abandonment of the tools and relationships we need to defend our vital interests in the Middle East.” 

“If we are to seize opportunities to preserve these interests, the Administration and Congress must suspend what has become almost knee-jerk political combat over Iraq. Those who offer constructive criticism of the surge strategy are not defeatists, any more than those who warn against a precipitous withdrawal are militarists. We need to move Iraq policy beyond the politics of the moment and re-establish a broad consensus on the role of the United States in the Middle East. If we do that, the United States has the diplomatic influence and economic and military power to strengthen mutually beneficial policies that could enhance security and prosperity throughout the region.  I pray that the President and the Congress will move swiftly and surely to achieve that goal.”

Dick Luger isn’t a liberal or a moderate. He is a staunch conservative. He doesn’t have to ever worry about reelection, and he isn’t running for president. Luger’s speech on the Senate floor was quite long, and I could only offer you the highlights, but this was a well thought out position on both the domestic politics and the military strategy involved with the war. He said it didn’t agree with all the points in the Iraq Study Group, but that he thought it was a good place to start work on a Plan B for Iraq. Luger advocates a troop draw down and a diplomatic initiative.

He doesn’t support a total withdrawal, but he doesn’t want to continue adding troops either. In short, his is a very moderate and practical position. If many of his Republican colleagues would come around to his way of thinking, especially President Bush, perhaps we could find a sensible end to this war that didn’t result in either massive U.S. casualties, or Iraq melting even further into civil war.

Full text of Luger’s speech 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at


Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 6:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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