Our fair city has been awash in language politics over the past few weeks as President Bush and his administration’s spinmeisters have pushed a wildly unpopular plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.

First, they termed the plan “a surge” of 21,500 extra troops. Soon “surge” became a rallying cry for the president’s opponents, and by the State of the Union speech last month, the president had simply decided to send “reinforcements.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice even quarreled with Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a Vietnam veteran, in a Senate hearing when he characterized the Bush administration’s proposed troop increase as an “escalation.”

Ignoring the subtleties of language politics, tens of thousands took to the National Mall late last month, joining military and foreign policy experts, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and the vast majority of the American people in opposing the escalation. They believed, as former New York Governor and possible Republican presidential candidate George Pataki said in a speech at Georgetown last week, that the president’s plan is not realistic and will not bring a lasting peace to Iraq. It is this inescapable truth that dooms the president’s plan, regardless of what he chooses to call it.

Increasing the number of American troops will do little to stabilize the situation in Baghdad or elsewhere. Writers like John Podesta of the Center for American Progress have pointed out that when military leaders increased the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad in two prior attempts to pacify the city, it only resulted in increased resentment among Iraqis and even more violence. The surge will put an even greater strain on U.S. forces that a recent Pentagon report said were already stretched “to the breaking point.”

The administration’s plan is contingent on the false hope that sending more U.S. troops will somehow lead to a new political and security effort by the desperately weak government of Prime inister Nouri al Maliki. Simply adding more troops into the conflict without setting out a clear plan for leaving Iraq keeps al aliki in power without giving him any real incentive to tackle the deep sectarian conflicts that are tearing his country apart. Instead, he can rely on an indefinite U.S. troop commitment to prop him up and avoid taking the politically difficult steps necessary to bring a stable political environment to his strife-ridden nation.

Without a clear plan for a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq that forces the Iraqi government to act, there is little hope that Iraqi leaders will take action to stabilize their nation.

The president has also stubbornly refused to accept the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and others who have called for negotiations with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria. Despite what the Study Group’s report calls “the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq,” the president continues to put American lives at risk by refusing to pursue negotiations. Instead of engaging in a tough – but constructive – dialogue that could reduce violence in Iraq, the president has increased tensions with Syria and Iran in particular with provocative rhetoric and veiled threats of military action.

Without a true political solution in Iraq and a broader diplomatic effort to bring regional powers to the table, the president’s plan simply guarantees that 21,500 more brave, young Americans will be caught in the crossfire of an increasingly bloody civil war without any end in sight. Instead of pushing for more troops in Iraq, the president should consider the plan offered by Democrats to strategically redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq over the next six months.

Redeployment would end the culture of dependency in Iraqi military and political circles, forcing the Iraqis to step up and take responsibility for their destiny. Some U.S. troops, however, would remain in the region, able to support Iraqi military operations and go after specific terrorist targets. Redeployment would also deprive the insurgents of their main rallying cry – that they are fighting a Western occupier intent on controlling the nation. Along with the redeployment, there would be a new “diplomatic surge” aimed at bringing regional and international partners into the process of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.

Democrats are offering a way forward in Iraq and a way to start bringing our troops home. The administration should stop squabbling over terminology and seriously consider the Democratic alternative. If he doesn’t, the United States will be left with an open-ended commitment to prop up a failed state in the most turbulent region of the world. We will pay dearly for such a commitment – with tax dollars and with the lives of soldiers. The only word for that would be “disaster.”

Ryan Guptill is a freshman in the College and a member of the Georgetown University College Democrats.

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