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What would the critics of President Bush do?

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The list is growing of politicians in Congress who have joined the ranks of war critics. These legislators harshly rebuke President George W. Bush for his decision to send 21,000 reinforcements to Iraq and, more importantly, to change the rules of engagement to apply lethal force against insurgents where ever they are found. But none of the critics is offering any realistic specific alternative strategies for achieving victory.

Responding to Tuesday’s State of the Union address, freshman Virginia Democrat Jim Webb called for Bush to end the “mismanaged war” but without a “precipitous withdrawal” or taking “one step back in the war against international terrorism.” But Webb offered no specifics other than pulling U.S. forces out of the cities and eventually withdrawing them from Iraq entirely. Likewise, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., now urges Bush to “consider other options,” but he failed to say what he thinks those are.

When President Bush warned that “the consequences of failure [in Iraq] will be grievous and far-reaching,” he was merely restating what most military and political analysts agree will be a catastrophic destabilization of the Middle East if we pick up and leave without finishing the job.

As commander-in-chief, Bush is increasingly alone in his belief that winning the war on terror means taking the fight to militant Islamists after two decades of trying futilely to appease or ignore them. “Success,” President Bush reminded Congress, “is measured by things that did not happen” — and that indisputably includes no further attacks on the American homeland on this president’s watch.

With an increasingly militant Iran threatening us, moderate Arabs and Israel, 60 percent of the world’s oil reserves at stake, and the prospect of an abandoned Iraq turning into a safe haven for al-Qaida’s mass murderers, it’s irresponsible in the extreme to reject Bush’s last-ditch attempt to stabilize Iraq out of hand without suggesting a better way to win.

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