SUPPORT FOR President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq by sending in roughly 40,000 additional troops (including support personnel) is beginning to resemble a game of Farmer in the Dell.
You remember the nursery-school game we used to play. The children, one by one, join the farmer in the middle of a circle, until "the cheese stands alone." Steadily and surely, the president is becoming more and more isolated as support for his plan fades away. Soon, he too will be standing alone.
But even before the president announced his decision to send more troops to Iraq, top leaders in military and foreign policy had started to abandon him. Gen. Peter Pace, in charge of troops on the ground at the time, testified to Congress last year that more troops weren't needed in Iraq.
He was then joined by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which came out against any increase in forces unless matched with equally vigorous diplomacy and a clear way to bring those troops home, neither of which is part of the president's plan.
Their view was bolstered by former Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who once commanded forces in the region; by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, whom the president consulted on the surge; and by retired Lt. Gen. William Odom, the former intelligence chief of the Army, all of whom forcefully opposed the president's strategy.
Last week, Congress took up the issue.
The House allowed five minutes for nearly every member to have his say on the floor, and proceeded to easily pass a resolution slamming the president's decision. Unfortunately, the Senate was held hostage by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who used the Senate's rules to stop a vote on the same resolution.
While Senate opponents of the president were unable to muster the 60 votes to force a vote, a majority of senators (including several from the GOP side) did vote to break the filibuster, and expressed their desire to pass the resolution, including Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a former secretary of the Navy. Both of our senators, Bob Casey and Arlen Specter, supported the resolution.
Finally, yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been the president's closest ally on the war, announced he would soon begin bringing British troops home from Iraq. Nearly 1,700 British troops will come home within weeks, not to be replaced, and Blair plans to reduce troop levels by much more by the late summer, leaving a nominal force.
The White House is trying to spin this as a positive - that progress in Iraq is allowing the British to leave - but Blair is leaving the president out to hang. By refusing to take those troops from Basra and send them to Baghdad to help in the president's surge, Blair is expressing his tacit disapproval for the plan, and unwillingness to spill British blood in support of it. Shortly after Blair announced his phased drawdown, Denmark announced it would follow suit and pull what few troops it has left in Iraq. Lithuania is considering the same.
The president is begging the nation to give his plan a chance. Yet the overwhelming majority of Americans are instead siding with the generals, the Iraq Study Group, the Congress and now the British. Polls consistently show that 65 percent to 70 percent of Americans are against an escalation.