We Went in Recklessly; We Must Move Forward Responsibly

While the President and his top cabinet officials like Secretary of State Rice spent the week testifying in support of their new strategy for victory, Americans are left with an even foggier view of what it's going to take to get us there.

The problem that we have right now is the same problem we've had the last five years, and that is that this administration has never laid out a clear strategy that the American people can understand--a strategy that has an endpoint.

We went to war in Iraq recklessly; we must move forward responsibly. The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. These costs encompass what we hold to be most precious--the thousands of American servicemen and women who have been killed or wounded. The costs also extend to the many thousands more Iraqi people killed and wounded as their country slides into the chaos of sectarian violence and civil war. We have incurred extraordinary financial costs--expenses totaling more than $380 billion and now estimated at $8 billion a month.

I recognize that Iraq faces severe and growing economic hardship as the result of its increasing spiral of violence, but I believe that providing an additional $1 billion in U.S. funding for reconstruction projects would only worsen the rampant waste and corruption as a result of the lack of effective oversight and control of similar billions in funding over the past four years. The administration's intention to increase economic aid to Iraq is especially troublesome when we still have victims in critical need of assistance more than a year after Hurricane Katrina's devastation along our Gulf Coast.

The key questions of the moment are how long the United States should be expected to keep our forces in Iraq as its government seeks to assume its own burdens? How and when will we begin to draw down our combat presence and conclude our mission in a way that does not leave even greater chaos behind? What is the administration's strategic vision and, as it relates to our presence in Iraq, its eventual endpoint? This administration has never clearly affirmed that the answers to these questions are not to be found in Iraq alone. Achieving our goals in this war requires a coherent strategy encompassing the entire region. The need for an overarching diplomatic solution is now, more than ever, an imperative if we are to end the war.

During an earlier era in our nation's history, we were faced with an unpopular war that had gone on too long. The then-recently retired General Dwight David Eisenhower spoke out against the conduct of the Korean War in the summer of 1952. "Where do we go from here," he asked; "when comes the end?"

It is universally accepted that victory will not be rung in with the celebratory spirit of wars past, but Americans still await answers to these same questions.