Warning that failure would be "catastrophic" and spread instability throughout the Middle East, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., on Friday expressed their support for a troop "surge" in Iraq - the plan reportedly being developed by the Bush administration to address growing insurgent violence.
Putting additional troops on the ground in Iraq would help quell the violence and boost efforts to train Iraqi security forces, the two said in a joint press conference at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C.
"I believe that the war is still winnable, but to prevail we'll have to do everything right and the Iraqis will have to do their part," McCain said.
He said withdrawing troops would leave Iraq without security, making it impossible for the nation to make political progress and economic development.
"The surge must be substantial, and it must be sustained," McCain said, recommending an increase of four to six brigades, mostly concentrated in Baghdad, which has seen the greatest amount of violence. It could mean an increase of around 20,000 troops.
"Even if we send additional troops to Iraq in large numbers for a sustained period," McCain said, "there is no guarantee for success in Iraq." He added, however, that he believed success was "still possible" even though it would be difficult.
Lieberman said a withdrawal would signal concession. If the United States hoped to win the broader war on terrorism, it must finish the job in Iraq.
"Only if one decides that everything in Iraq has been lost, that there is no hope ... will you decide that the goal should be to get out instead of trying to make it work," he said.
Lieberman said a withdrawal would "lead to Iranian expansionism, the creation of an al Qaeda base in Iraq and even more significantly the intimidation of the moderate forces throughout the region and a drop of confidence in the credibility and the strength of the United States of America."
Their speeches came as the conservative AEI released a report also supporting a troop surge.
"Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort," it said. "We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively."
AEI proposed a surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments beginning in spring 2007 to "improve security and set conditions for economic development, political development, reconciliation, and the development of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to provide permanent security."
In a letter to Bush Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote that a troop surge would be more of the same of Bush's "failed" policy.
"The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people," Reid and Pelosi wrote. "Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed."
They wrote that "there is only a political solution" and urged Bush to "begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror."
MoveOn.org contends that the midterm elections that gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress gave them a mandate to get America out of Iraq. "Voters sent a clear message to Congress in November," Matzzie said in a news release. "Get out of Iraq."
A 21 Percent Mandate
A CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted after the election, however, found that a majority of Americans do not support an immediate withdrawal of troops.
Twenty-one percent of the more than 1,000 respondents said they favored an immediate pullout while 33 favored scheduling a pullout for December 2007 and 32 percent said to keep troops there "as long as needed." Only 11 percent of respondents favored sending more troops.
Nearly half of respondents - 46 percent - said the U.S. needs to make "major changes" to its strategy for handling Iraq, with 27 percent calling for a "complete overhaul."
The AEI report criticized calls for an immediate withdrawal, saying it "will lead to immediate defeat. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are entirely dependent upon American support to survive and function. If U.S. forces withdraw now, the Iraqi forces will collapse. Iraq will descend into total civil war that will rapidly spread throughout the Middle East."
Another CNN poll, conducted over the first three days of 2007, found that few Americans are confident that Democrats are ready to lead change on the war.
More than 80 percent of respondents in the most recent poll said they did not think Democrats in Congress "have developed a clear plan for dealing with the situation in Iraq." More than half - 51 percent - do not believe Bush and Democrats will be able to work together to find a solution.