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One bad surge deserves no others 

Remove presidential ego from the Iraq civil war

One classic example of insanity is to endlessly repeat the same behavior expecting a different result. Well, President George Bush doesn't appear to be insane, but he does appear to be extremely foolish. Just recently we completed Operation Forward Together, which was a surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad that was to be a joint effort of U.S. and Iraqi troops to bring the capital under control. It was a total failure when promised Iraqi troops failed to show and our troops became targets on city streets. The end result was an escalation in violence. And now part of his new strategy for Iraq is another surge plan that his own Joint Chiefs of Staff do not support. This despite 88 percent of the American people wanting this conflict ended.

The last time I checked, our founding fathers left us with a government by and for the people of the United States with an elaborate system of checks and balances, but these only work if each branch exercises its inherent powers. The former "do nothing" Republican Congress failed to exercise oversight over the Bush administration, and prior to taking power, the "old guard" of the Democratic Party tells us that the power of the purse string is off the table to control the war in Iraq. Why should this be off the table? Other than impeachment, it is the major check on the power of the executive branch of government. This after a vast majority of Americans went to the polls for the expressed purpose of getting us out of this morass?

Recently, on a trip to the East Coast and to Washington, D.C., we spent some time at the Vietnam War Memorial viewing its long dark marble stretching across the park into the distance with endless names etched on it as so many grains of sand on a black volcanic beach. The names are so numerous that indexes and human helpers are needed to find the names of friends and loved ones lost to this conflict. It is a fitting tribute to the quagmire that dragged on during the terms of three presidents and that became so hard for America to extricate itself from.

For presidential egos who wanted to be remembered well by history and who did not want to be the one who admitted defeat, the domino theory, fighting communism, and finally the duty to the war dead themselves became reasons to stay the course in the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Johnson's secretary of war, Robert McNamara, and political think tank experts told us that communism would march across Southeast Asia like dominos falling if we failed in Vietnam. Time and those who lost their lives in that war have proven these reasons and experts wrong.

Today, almost identical arguments are used to stay the course in Iraq: a presidential ego that does not want to see the reality that 88 percent of all Americans can clearly see, a dubious argument that we are fighting terrorism rather than involvement in an internal civil war, and so-called experts who tell us that if we fail in Iraq the entire region will fall to terrorists. Will time and those who are now losing their lives again prove these reasons and so-called experts wrong? A look back at history tells us the answer appears to be yes.

As early as the American Revolutionary War, the British were shocked at the effectiveness of what would later be know as "guerrilla warfare," when American Patriots shot from behind trees, fences, and buildings and how effective a nationalistic fighting force can be protecting its homeland when interspersed with non-combatants. These same factors play against us in Iraq, just as they played against the British in America.

Guerrilla warfare has improved considerably in small and large jungle and city wars since its early beginnings. The war in Vietnam is an example, with troops interspersed within civilian populations and even large-scale movement of enemy troops protected by a thick jungle canopy. The nature of the war made it difficult to tell friend from foe. We were up against a highly motivated nationalistic fighting force intent upon repelling the invaders. Unfortunately, lessons learned were soon forgotten.

For a long time, our presidents and our nation remembered our lessons from that guerrilla war, and we stayed out of entanglements in Lebanon, Africa, and other hot spots in the world and the world and the United States were better off because we remembered. For many years, we insisted that our leaders have a clear attainable goal coupled with an exit strategy but that has long been forgotten. Today, as a result of Iraq, polls show that the rest of the world views us as a greater threat to world peace than terrorists.

The time is long past due for us to exit Iraq as the Bush administration has no clear attainable goal or exit strategy. The reality of the situation is that more than 80 percent of all Iraqis want us out sooner rather than later. Both Sunni and Shiite, to different degrees, view us as invaders, which makes the surge plan for Baghdad even more tenuous.

It is time for the new congress to step up and take responsibility and exercise its constitutional duty over the purse strings of government, setting its own benchmarks for the orderly withdrawal of American troops in funding legislation. Presidential ego should not be a substitute for rational thinking when it comes to the safety of our troops.

Whether it be presidential ego, insanity, or foolishness, this surge plan should be the last straw for the American people, in a long line of poor decisions, and the plan should not be allowed to be implemented. Only Congress, willing to accept full responsibility, can act at this point!

Ken McCalip is a North Santa Barbara County native and former principal/superintendent who holds bachelor and doctorate degrees in history, cultural geography, and law from various California universities. He can be reached at

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