Bush Stresses Cooperation, Perseverance in War on Terror
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2007 Emphasizing that failure in Iraq would be grievous and far-reaching, President Bush said tonight that American leaders must work together to set the conditions for success in the long war against terrorism.
“The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others,” Bush said in his annual State of the Union Address. “That is why it is important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through.”
Bush proposed the establishment of a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of members of Congress from both political parties. “We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us,” he said. “And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”
The war in Iraq is part of a broader ideological struggle against extremism, Bush said. Failure in Iraq would embolden terrorists and potentially give them a safe haven from which to attack the U.S. and other countries, he said.
“So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers and brave voices for democracy,” he said. “The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, ... we must.”
One of the first steps America’s leaders can take toward success in the long war against terrorism is to increase the size of the military, Bush said. He asked Congress to authorize an increase in the size of the active-duty Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 over the next five years.
In addition, Bush proposed the creation of a volunteer civilian reserve corps, which would ease the burden on military forces serving overseas. This corps would function much like a military reserve force, Bush said, and would employ civilians with critical skills who can serve on missions abroad. “It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time,” Bush said.
Bush said he worked in close consultation with military commanders in developing the new strategy for the war in Iraq. The leaders chose the proposed strategy, which includes sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, increased responsibility for the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces, and more diplomatic and economic initiatives, because it was the best way forward, Bush said.
“For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger. … To win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy,” he said. “From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense.”
The new Iraq strategy demands more commitment from the Iraqi government, but recognizes that the goal of a democratic Iraq cannot be reached until the sectarian violence in Baghdad is quelled, Bush said. Iraqi forces aren’t ready to handle security on their own, he said, so the majority of U.S. forces will go to Baghdad, where they will clear and secure neighborhoods and serve as advisors to Iraqi units.
Bush emphasized that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended. The Iraqi government must follow through on its promises to deploy more troops to Baghdad, lift restrictions on coalition forces, make visible progress in reconciliation, and take responsibility for security operations, he said.
“The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now is the time for their government to act,” Bush said.
If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, extremists would overrun the Iraqi government, and the ensuing violence would affect the entire region, Bush said. Out of chaos in Iraq would emerge a stronger enemy with new safe havens, recruits and resources, he said.
“Nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq, and to spare the American people from this danger,” he said.