he internal struggle over troop levels in Iraq has exposed a schism between civilian and military leadership 45 months into a war that, at the moment, has no end in sight. Testifying before a Senate committee Nov. 15, Abizaid bluntly rejected the surge option, saying: "I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem. I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are." Other generals have been equally resistant in public and private comments.
Bush has traditionally paid public deference to the generals, saying any decisions on moving U.S. forces in the region would depend on their views. At a Chicago news conference in July, for instance, Bush said he would yield to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Iraq commander.
"General Casey will make the decisions as to how many troops we have there," Bush said, adding: "He'll decide how best to achieve victory and the troop levels necessary to do so. I've spent a lot of time talking to him about troop levels. And I've told him this: I said, 'You decide, General.' "
By yesterday, however, Bush indicated that he will not necessarily let military leaders decide, ducking a question about whether he would overrule them. "The opinion of my commanders is very important," he said. "They are bright, capable, smart people whose opinion matters to me a lot." He added: "I agree with them that there's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops before I agree on that strategy."
A senior aide said later that Bush would not let the military decide the matter. "He's never left the decision to commanders," said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so Bush's comments would be the only ones on the record. "He is the commander in chief. But he has said he will listen to those commanders when making these decisions. That hasn't changed."
This is a personal web site. It is not a production of Media Matters for America (MMFA). Statements on this site do not represent the views or policies of MMFA. Preferences for electoral candidates posted on this site have not been expressed using any MMFA resources.