While Congress debates whether to approve resolutions opposing President Bush's "surge" strategy in Baghdad, and as a new national intelligence estimate paints the war in dire terms, Current asked potential and declared presidential candidates: "Where should we go from here in Iraq?" Below are the answers, edited for length, of those who responded. Full statements can be found at latimes.com/iraqstatements.
Sen. Sam Brownback
Because the stakes are so high, and the cost of failure so tremendous, we'll need a significant U.S. presence in Iraq for several years, regardless of which party controls Congress and the White House. As we've seen in the past, the United Sates cannot successfully fight a war that only one party supports.
In other words, to win over there, we need to unite here. That's why both political parties should look for common areas of agreement from which we can move forward and build consensus.
One thing is clear: A military solution is unlikely, on its own, to solve the crisis in Iraq. A political solution is necessary for peace and stability. Americans of all political stripes should begin a thoughtful conversation about how we can work toward that goal.
former governor of Massachusetts
Our military mission, for the first time, must include securing the civilian population from violence and terror. Civilian security is the precondition for any political and economic reconstruction.
Securing Iraqi civilians requires additional troops. Five brigades should be added in Baghdad and two regiments in Al Anbar province. Success will require rapid deployment.
This effort should be combined with clear objectives and milestones for U.S. and Iraqi leaders.
Iraq is one front in a larger struggle against a global jihadist movement. An effective strategy will involve both military and diplomatic actions to support modern Muslim nations. America must help lead a broad-based international coalition that promotes secular education, modern financial and economic policies, international trade and human rights.
Rep. Duncan Hunter
President Bush's newly announced strategy to reduce violence in Baghdad should be the template for accelerating the transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi military forces. The "Baghdad 3-to-1 Plan," as it's known, combines three Iraqi battalions with one U.S. backup battalion in a mentoring role, thereby leveraging the ability of Iraq's military to operate in an urban environment and among the Iraqi people. Americans will support these efforts with intelligence, special operations, firepower, logistics and precision strikes.
I have recommended to the president that he replicate this model throughout Iraq. U.S.-Iraqi military operations will provide Iraq's military forces with invaluable combat experience and build and reinforce their confidence. Most important, the 3-1 plan would allow U.S. commanders to evaluate the maturity of Iraqi battalions firsthand and ascertain the correct timing for handing off security responsibilities to the Iraqis.
While the president's new strategy rightly deploys nine additional Iraqi battalions to Baghdad, we must go further and ensure that all 129 Iraqi combat battalions currently trained and equipped are rotated through the "heart of battle." This would not only battle-harden Iraqi military units, it would also reinforce civilian control of the military, solidify the chain of command and minimize provincial associations with military units.
Replicating the 3-1 model across Iraq, however, would not be dependent on Iraq's security forces fielding a full-range of military capabilities. It would require only modestly trained and adequately equipped soldiers. Over time, Iraqis would develop more advanced capabilities as they fight alongside U.S. forces. Implementing this strategy throughout Iraq would provide a significant opportunity to modify the U.S. military course in Iraq. The development of a confident, capable and reliable Iraqi military force remains central to our efforts in that country. Once achieved, it would allow us to leave.
Rep. Ron Paul
Our troops should be removed from Iraq as soon as it is safely possible. The specifics of withdrawal should be left to our military leaders on the ground. This war has lasted longer than World War II. U.S. taxpayers can't keep spending $8 billion a month to solve Iraq's problems. The Iraqi government should assume responsibility for defending and policing its own country. It is unwise to have an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Don't believe for a minute that additional congressional funding is needed to ensure that our troops can defend themselves or extricate themselves from the war zone. The Department of Defense has hundreds of billions of dollars in the pipeline available to move troops anywhere on Earth -- including home.
Rep. Tom Tancredo