Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of our extraordinary troops and oppose sending over 20,000 additional U.S. forces into the middle of Iraq's violent sectarian conflict. I oppose the President's plan because it will not end the insurgency, halt military activity, or accelerate our departure from Iraq. The plan is not a strategic change.
Rather, it is the continuation of a failed policy. When Congress voted to authorize the use of military force, I voted ``no.'' I felt at that time that we had not exhausted all diplomatic avenues and that unilateral action would have a grave effect on our strategic position in the world. More significantly, it could undercut the broader long-term war against Islamic extremism. Sadly, Mr. Speaker, many of these predictions have come through. We now find ourselves in a position where only grim choices remain.
The war in Iraq has indeed strained our military, drained taxpayer dollars and damaged our credibility in the international community. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have heard from a number of administration officials and academic experts on the way forward in Iraq. And many of these experts have warned against increasing the number of troops.
Last November, General Abizaid told Congress that an increase in U.S. troop levels would only delay the ability of Iraqis to take the lead. Mr. Speaker, what changed between November and today? Even the most ardent proponents of the troop increase acknowledge that to work all pieces must come together.
First, the military must be able to quell sectarian and insurgent violence. And then if the violence subsides long enough for a window of opportunity to open, the economic and political components must be executed flawlessly.
Even if our forces are successful in reducing violence in the short term, assurances cannot be given that other parts of the government will be able to address the economic and political components of the President's plan.
Well, the track record of the administration and the Maliki government make it hard to believe that such a plan will bring real results. One of the most egregious errors of our entire experience in Iraq has been the failure to put trained experts in critical civilian positions.
To accomplish this new mission, civilian agencies have been asked to send several hundred experts to Iraq to carry out the plan. However, the military has reported that because of hiring delays, DOD will have to assign their own personnel because U.S. civilian agencies are unable to fill the much needed positions.
Mr. Speaker, it should not be the role of the military to rebuild nations on their own. We should have been leveraging our talented and experienced Federal workforce all along. Many of my colleagues have already discussed key issues such as readiness and equipment levels, but two of the greatest concerns I have with the President's plan are the effect on our volunteer force and the strategic risk that is created by putting more military assets into Iraq.
By adding more troops, the administration leaves our Nation with fewer resources to deal with Afghanistan and future contingencies. Will we be able to respond if our military is needed elsewhere? With more of our troops bogged down, will our allies around the world continue to have faith in our ability to respond to extremist and military threats around the globe?
We must answer these questions. But I have not heard satisfactory responses from the President or military officials. Mr. Speaker, I also oppose the surge because the present administration has not sufficiently answered questions about the impact on military personnel. For those in the military, this war hits close to home every day.
While we have asked few Americans to sacrifice during this conflict, servicemembers and their families continue to face the uncertainty of repeated deployments, injury and in some cases the death of a loved one. They deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I told President Bush that veterans in my district have said, "We are a military at war, not a Nation at war.'' And military leaders agree. Mr. Speaker, if we truly want to create a situation where we can withdraw our troops, we need to escalate our diplomatic efforts and call on Iraq's neighbors to help the Iraqi Government make the tough political decisions needed to reduce the violence.
We must not give in to the President's diversion, but develop a multipronged strategic plan the American and the Iraqi people deserve.