Instilling Confidence in …. Anybody Out There ?

No U.S. Backup Strategy For Iraq: Outside Experts, Not White House, Discuss Options
By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 5, 2007; Page A01

During a White House meeting last week, a group of governors asked President Bush and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about their backup plan for Iraq. What would the administration do if its new strategy didn’t work?

The conclusion they took away, the governors later said, was that there is no Plan B. “I’m a Marine,” Pace told them, “and Marines don’t talk about failure. They talk about victory.”

Pace had a simple way of summarizing the administration’s position, Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) recalled. “Plan B was to make Plan A work.”

In the weeks since Bush announced the new plan for Iraq — including an increase of 21,500 U.S. combat troops, additional reconstruction assistance and stepped-up pressure on the Iraqi government — senior officials have rebuffed questions about other options in the event of failure. Eager to appear resolute and reluctant to provide fodder for skeptics, they have responded with a mix of optimism and evasion.

Even if the administration is not talking about Plan B, the subject is on a lot of minds inside and outside the government. “I would be irresponsible if I weren’t thinking about what the alternatives might be,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged last month to Congress, where many favor gradual or immediate withdrawal.

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