Livingston - Reaction from Michigan lawmakers to President Bush's announcement Wednesday that he plans to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq was lukewarm, at best.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, who has been a supporter of the war from the beginning, said he has concerns about what supporters are calling a troop "surge." Critics call the plan an "escalation" of the four-year conflict.
"While I have concerns that a surge in troops may not have the desired outcome, I do believe the commander in chief needs to be able to make his case to the nation," Rogers said in a written statement before Bush's speech.
Rogers had been briefed Tuesday on the contents of the speech, his spokeswoman Sylvia Warner said.
Rogers statement continued: "America's military men and women who have sacrificed so much must know that the new way forward in Iraq is a plan in which the military mission and the rules of engagement are clearly defined, and specific benchmarks are outlined for Iraqis to take over so our troops can come home."
Criticism from other Republicans was more stark, although many GOP leaders in Congress offered their support.
In December, when the Iraq Study Group's report came out, Rogers said he agreed with its finding that diplomatic outreach to Syria and Iran would be helpful.
The Bush administration has been reluctant to do that, and the president specifically said he wouldn't do it in Wednesday's speech. In fact, the said the U.S. would act against countries meddling in Iraq.
Rogers was not available Wednesday to answer more detailed questions about diplomacy or Iraq, Warner said.
U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, supported the move, albeit cautiously.
"President Bush's proposal to send additional members of the U.S. armed forces to Iraq requires careful evaluation as Congress debates the way forward in the coming weeks," Hoekstra said. "It cannot be considered in a vacuum, but in the context of its impact on American security and our partnerships in the region. The risks associated with failure are very significant, including providing a base for radical militant Islamists and greater regional conflict. But we need to outline exactly what success should look like and develop a plan to measure it."
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, wasn't impressed by the plan.
"While the country voted for change, the president seems to be staking out a course of more of the same," Stupak said. "I did not hear anything tonight that makes me believe this escalation in forces will be more successful than the previous troop escalations. Since June, this administration has twice escalated the number of troops in Baghdad and neither of these troop surges had the desired effect of bringing stability and security to Iraq."
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, has been a longtime critic of the war, was also unmoved by the president's speech Wednesday night.
"I oppose increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq as the president outlined. An escalation of American troops is a flawed strategy for two reasons: it implies that there is a military solution to the violence when what's needed is a political solution among the Iraqi leaders, and it suggests that the future of Iraq is in our hands, not theirs. More promises by the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future and more statements by the President on the need for doing so are no substitute for U.S. actions to force political compromises by the Iraqi," said Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "The president did not set benchmarks for the Iraqis that have hard deadlines and clear consequences for failure."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Dan Meisler at (517) 552-2857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dan Meisler LIVINGSTON DAILY PRESS & ARGUS