Lugar: Change In Iraq Policy Can't Wait

Senate Foreign Relactions Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., reacts to President Bush Iraq speech during a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

The President's "surge" strategy can not achieve it's goals of securing Iraq and giving the Iraqi government time to reach a consensus, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said on Face The Nation.

"The point of the surge was to give time for the Iraqi politicians to work out the constitutional elements, not only the oil law, but the local elections, a whole raft of things," Lugar said. "They're not going to be able to do that in that period of time of about December or next March or what have you."

As the U.S. troops who make up the surge have arrived in Iraq, American casualties have increased. Lugar said he wants to pull troops back from the front lines and focus on training Iraqis.

The White House said no judgment should be made until commander of forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, issues his report in September. But Lugar said even if Petraeus comes back with a positive report, the point of the surge was to give Iraqi politicians more time to work out problems — something he said could take many years.

"This is sad, but that is the case," he said. "We're not going to be able to provide security for all of Iraq, all 18 provinces, in the matter of next September or December or beyond that."

Lugar publicly broke with President George W. Bush last week, but he told Bob Schieffer that it is still up to the president to the country's armed forces.

"The president probably has the authority, if he wishes, to pursue right out to the end of his term a full-blown surge or whatever he wants to do – although, my guess is the constraints of the presidential campaign, the congressional campaign, are likely to bring pause even to the president if he were to have that idea," Lugar said.

But, Lugar said he wanted to change the president's plan before it came to that.

Lugar said he would like Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the president to come up with bi-partisan way to reduce troop levels.

Rather than withdraw all U.S. troops, Lugar suggested a three part plan:

  • Create a diplomatic forum for Iraq, the United States and Iraq's neighbors to continuously discuss the region's problems. Buttress the diplomacy with some American troops.
  • Calmly withdraw the majority of American troops over the next few months so that we can deal with problems where in the world without being stretched too thin.
  • Refurbish the equipment for troops' serving in other areas and work on the declining recruitment numbers.

    Lugar said he's not alone in his party. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., was very encouraging, Lugar said, and other Republicans have already indicated the feel similarly by their votes on various amendments. He said he asked Democrats to be prepared to work with the president if he decides to lead and change course sooner rather than later.

    "I hope something will come of this now," Lugar said, "not punting the ball down to September when these reports all come in and we have some good news, some bad news."