As even strong Republican supporters of President Bush and the Iraqi invasion, such as Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, now admit publicly, the Iraq surge cannot achieve its main objective. These party loyalists acknowledge that Mr. Bush's surge strategy - aimed at getting Iraq's leaders to make key decisions to advance their country's political transition and national reconciliation - is not working and cannot work. Moreover, the surge is actually undermining our strategic interests.
Iraq's leaders are fundamentally at odds over what Iraq should be, how power should be distributed and who should control the nation's oil wealth. As a result, President Bush has placed the well-being of U.S. troops in the hands of Iraq's squabbling national leaders, essentially giving a divided Iraqi leadership a veto on when and where to use U.S. military forces. This makes neither strategic nor moral sense.
It is now clear that there is a bipartisan consensus that the United States should reset its entire Middle East strategy. However, this reset must be immediate and sweeping. This nation cannot afford any more half-measures.
In resetting its strategy, the United States needs to protect its two vital interests in Iraq. We must prevent Iraq from becoming a launching pad and rallying cry for international terrorist groups, and we must prevent Iraq from becoming a source of even greater instability in this oil-rich region. Our best chance for advancing these interests is to withdraw from Iraq by fall 2008 and engage in increased collective security initiatives and diplomacy with neighboring countries.
A swift strategic redeployment from Iraq, coordinated with Iraq's leaders, would give the United States the best chance to revitalize its ground forces - now stretched too thin to address growing threats on other fronts in the fight against global terrorist groups, such as in Afghanistan. Getting U.S. troops out of Iraq's multiple conflicts and positioning troops in neighboring countries would put the United States in a better position to prevent Iraq's multiple sectarian conflicts from spreading beyond its borders and would give Iraq and its neighbors the right incentive to help resolve Iraq's internal conflicts.
As it redeploys its troops, the United States needs to come to grips with this new reality of Iraq's fragmentation and respond by diversifying our military, diplomatic and development presence in and around Iraq. The United States should halt the arming and training of Iraq's national security forces until a political consensus and sustainable political solution are reached. Arming and training these security forces were core recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, but those recommendations have been overtaken by events. Spending billions of dollars to arm them absent political consensus among Iraq's leaders comes with two significant risks to U.S. national security interests.
First, the United States is arming different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years. Second, billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance is going to some of the closest allies of America's greatest rival in the Middle East: Iran. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi national army and security forces could quite quickly turn their weapons against American troops and allies in the region.
As it draws down its military forces, the United States should discard its plan to build the world's largest embassy in Baghdad and instead make plans to reassign diplomatic and intelligence personnel throughout Iraq and neighboring countries. We should encourage Middle East leaders and the United Nations to continue working with Iraq's national leaders to peacefully settle their differences over power-sharing, but the United States should not unilaterally continue to try to force an immediate resolution to Iraq's disputes.
The United States should also work with other global powers and key allies in the Middle East to build consensus for a new U.N. Security Council resolution to replace the one that expires Dec. 31. This U.N. resolution should ensure that other countries do their share to help stabilize Iraq and the Middle East.
Where security conditions permit and where it is practically possible, the United States should reassign U.S. personnel to secure consulates around Iraq in order to assist in local efforts to address Iraq's problems more effectively.
Finally, to fulfill a key moral obligation to the Iraqi people, the United States should increase the number of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons it accepts annually from the current 7,000 to 100,000.
Implementing these measures would help the United States reclaim control of its own security. We need to seize this bipartisan moment to make immediate and sweeping changes, not further experiments and tinkering.
Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, and Brian Katulis are senior fellows at the Center for American Progress and co-authors of the center's new strategy for Iraq and the Middle East, "Strategic Reset." Their e-mails are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.