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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2006
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EDITORIAL

More troops would become more targets

President Bush and some congressional leaders are considering sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.

To do so now would be the wrong move. Now is the time to begin gradually withdrawing military personnel from the troubled nation.

Much of the discussion about Iraq incorrectly centers on whether coalition forces are "winning" or "losing" the war. Unfortunately, most things in life are not black and white.

Certainly, the mostly U.S.-led coalition won the war in Iraq. It did so years ago, when the corrupt Iraqi regime was humiliated and Saddam Hussein was forced from power and later captured.

Less certain is whether we are winning the peace. The post-war effort is marred with poor decisions — such as disbanding the Iraqi army, leaving a huge void in security and opening the door for sectarian militias to create havoc — and an inability to re-establish essential services like reliable electricity, sewer and potable water.

A more appropriate discussion about Iraq is whether we are succeeding or failing. But again, the reality lies somewhere in the gray area between the two.

While most Iraqis initially embraced coalition troops as a liberating force, the slow progress since Saddam's fall created the impression that the occupation will never end. Many Iraqis wonder if they have lost their country and become the 51st state in the union.

Sending more troops to Iraq now would send the wrong message to the Iraqi people and create more targets for insurgents.

It would aggravate an already ugly and frustrating situation. It would result in more bloodshed and terror.

Systematically and gradually withdrawing troops would allow Iraq's warring factions and its neighboring countries to concentrate on the business of establishing a stable government of Iraqis.

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