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A Washington Inside Job

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When the Iraq Study Group's report was unveiled this week, it was like the opening of a blockbuster movie, with reporters counting down the minutes until it was released. But now that all the hoopla has subsided, all we are left with is a Washington inside job: a report written by Washington insiders, for Washington insiders, who share the same mindset that led us into the misguided war in Iraq.

The Iraq Study Group essentially sees Iraq the same way that most of official Washington does - as the be-all and end-all of our foreign and national security policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any decisions about our Iraq policy must be guided by our top national security priority: defeating the global terrorist networks operating in countries around the world. We cannot look at Iraq in isolation; we need to also be looking at Somalia and Afghanistan and the many other places around the world where we face grave and growing threats.

The report has some good recommendations, including its call for the U.S. to step up diplomatic efforts with countries like Iran and Syria. But many of its recommendations perpetuate the Iraq-centric policies that have failed so miserably. They fail to correct the course that the American people rejected at the polls in November.

The recommendation that we embed our best troops in the Iraqi army, for example, might seem like a good idea in isolation, but what about our critical effort to fight a resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the country that was the staging ground for the 9/11 attack? Our ongoing efforts in Iraq are straining our military and limiting our capacity to effectively pursue the fight against terrorist networks around the world.

By redeploying our troops from Iraq, we can pursue a new national security strategy that will make our country safer. We can finish the job in Afghanistan. We can scrap the "transformational diplomacy" this Administration has used to offend, push away, and ultimately alienate so many of our friends and allies, and replace it with an aggressive, multilateral approach that would leverage the strength of our friends to defeat our common enemies.

And we can repair and infuse new capabilities and strength into our armed forces. By freeing up our Special Forces assets and redeploying our military power from Iraq, we will be better positioned to handle global threats and future contingencies. Our current state of readiness is unacceptable and must be repaired. Our National Guard, too, must be capable of responding to natural disasters and future contingencies.

The way to win a war against global terrorist networks is not to keep over 140,000 American troops in Iraq indefinitely. We will weaken, not strengthen, our national security by continuing to pour a disproportionate level of our military and intelligence and fiscal resources into Iraq.

Unfortunately, while the Iraq Study Group's report recognizes that the Administration's policy is not working, it doesn't correct the myopic focus on Iraq that has so dangerously weakened our national security. In the end, this report is a regrettable example of 'official Washington' missing the point. The growing threats we face in places like Afghanistan and Somalia are every bit as important to our national security as Iraq. Until Congress and the Administration recognize that, we will only perpetuate the deeply misguided policies that got us into Iraq in the first place.