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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Just How the U.S. Can Ultimately Win in Iraq

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As an American, I now realize that the United States went into Iraq without a plan. It must not try to leave without one.

How we leave Iraq will affect how others regard us and how we regard ourselves for decades to come. What will be the abiding image -- a panicky scramble for choppers as in Vietnam or a solemn and decorous withdrawal as befits a great nation?

How we leave Iraq will shape the lives of millions in the Middle East and either stimulate or quell terrorism.

The talk now is mostly of withdrawal -- if we should, when and how many soldiers? To some degree this is a result of 2006 being a congressional elections year, with presidential elections in 2008 still looming. And to some degree this is a question of mere weariness. Probably because there is no draft, the war is not stirring deep passions among the citizenry.

But withdrawal is not the issue. The issue is success. Success in this instance means a reasonably stable, independent and representative Iraqi government, one able to provide essential services and security for its citizens and itself. That mission is far from accomplished.

It's not time to decrease but to double or triple our forces. From the start, military men warned that the projected invasion force was too small. And the original contingent had only to defeat Hussein's army. Now we must defeat several foes -- insurgents, terrorists and anarchic criminals.

But where are we going to get tens of thousands of new recruits?

There are something like 11 million illegal aliens in the United States. Instead of offering illegal aliens a meaningless blanket amnesty, immediate citizenship should be conferred to any illegal alien, and all of his or her family, of service age, who volunteers for military service. They crossed a desert to get to America. Now let them fight in a desert for the right to remain here.

One of the main tasks of these new troops will be safeguarding Iraq's oil fields and pipelines. One of the justifications for the war was that it would be paid for in part with Iraqi oil. This can still happen. If we can deliver the precious gifts of peace and freedom, there is no reason we shouldn't bill Iraq a few hundred billion dollars for our services, payable in oil.

The drive to defeat the insurgents, train the Iraqis and safeguard their oil should be very intense but of limited duration. The next president of the United States should not be involved in a war in Iraq. And neither should the American people.

Richard Lourie is the author of "The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin" and "Sakharov: A Biography."