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Surge protection

"Surge protection" Continued...

Issue: "Marathon man," Feb. 17, 2007

Senate Democrats on Feb. 5 used Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the president's proposed defense budget to grill Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the direction of the war. Gates candidly told the committee that he is considering what steps to take if the plan fails: "I would be irresponsible if I weren't thinking about what the alternatives would be." But the secretary emphasized that the military is "planning for success," and said if the clamp-down in Baghdad is successful, some troops could come home by the end of the year.

One day later, Gates addressed the House Armed Services Committee, supporting the president's defense budget that includes $142 billion for war costs for the next budget year. Gates acknowledged the "sticker shock" of the massive amount of money, but said military spending is consuming a smaller percentage of the nation's wealth than during the Vietnam and Korean Wars and after the Cold War.

Even after a National Intelligence Estimate report that warned of disastrous consequences of a rapid troop withdrawal, some Senate Democrats say they want to attach conditions to approving the president's defense spending: Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) supports legislation that would cap the number of troops in Iraq. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) says he'll propose legislation that orders troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation told WORLD he doesn't think Democrats will ultimately use the congressional purse strings to cut funding in Iraq. But he does fear that the debate over Iraq may muddle the importance of defense funding beyond the current war: "Iraq certainly doesn't represent the whole of the terror threat."

Gates echoed that sentiment, telling the House Armed Services Committee that the Army and Marine Corps need to be larger to deal with future wars and give troops rest: "We don't know what's going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran, and elsewhere."

In the meantime, U.S forces continue to capture terrorists and uncover large weapons caches in Iraq. On Feb. 3, troops seized more than 1,100 explosive mortar rounds stashed near a highway leading into Baghdad. Two days earlier, coalition forces captured a suspected death squad leader accused of running a terror cell of 20 people. Forces say the leader and his cell are responsible for multiple murders and crimes, including kidnapping three Iraqi civilians in December 2006 and burning them alive.

Coalition forces also continue to distribute much-needed aid to Iraqis: Late last month members of the Army's 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team helped Iraqi soldiers distribute supplies to some 1,000 displaced families in Baghdad. The aid included blankets, heaters, food and cooking oil, and small toys for children.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD.

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