Canton Repository

February 16, 2007

At odds over troop surge

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service


WASHINGTON Reps. Ralph Regula and Zack Space staked out opposing positions on the Iraq war Thursday, with Space declaring his opposition to sending more troops to Iraq and Regula supporting the buildup as long as it is coupled with what he called a “surge in diplomacy.”

The two Ohio lawmakers, who illustrate the partisan divide over President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, are among dozens who have taken to the floor this week to debate an anti-surge resolution the House will vote on today.

SPACE AND REGULA

Although Space has criticized the war in the past and Regula has supported it, their comments Thursday offered additional insight into their views on how to bring U.S. involvement in the almost four-yearlong conflict to an end.

Space, D-Dover, contended that Bush has failed to lay out a plan of success for the 21,500 additional troops being sent to the Baghdad area.

“The crisis that Iraq has become will not be resolved merely with more, more, more,” he said. “Without a clear plan and a clear objective, a troop increase will not help our Iraq policy. In fact it will only deepen the disaster that Iraq has become,” he added.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, whose turn on the floor came an hour later, countered that the troops are needed.

“Denying additional troops as requested by our military leadership could put our troops that are there at greater risk and delay their return to their loved ones,” he said.

HOUSE VOTES TODAY

The Democratic-authored resolution the House will vote on expresses support for the roughly 130,000 troops currently in Iraq while disapproving of the plan to send additional troops there.

Bush has indicated he will proceed with the deployment even if the nonbinding resolution is passed in the Democratic-controlled House as expected.

The president, who announced the surge last month, said the additional troops will help Iraqis secure and hold violent areas of the nation in order to create the conditions for stability and progress.

Both lawmakers — Regula, who has served since 1973, and Space, who is a freshman — acknowledged they have heard from constituents who are both for and against the troop increase.

Regula said some people in his district want the troops home immediately while others “want us to remain there so we don’t have to fight the terrorists on our own soil.”

“What I do know is that the challenges in Iraq are complex and the consequences of immediate withdrawal would be devastating,” he said.

THOUGHTS ON TROOPS

Space, who won election in a Republican-leaning district after his predecessor, Republican Bob Ney, pleaded guilty in a bribery scandal, worried that his remarks could be misconstrued as not supporting the troops.

“Let there be no mistake,” he said. “I have at the heart of my motivation for these remarks a sincere appreciation for the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters who have been dispatched to fight this war.”

Space added that his admiration for the troops motivated his decision to “express my dissatisfaction with the president’s plan to subject more of them to the ravages of war.”

MORE DIPLOMACY

While Regula continues to support Bush’s policy in Iraq, he issued a strong call for more diplomacy in the region and made repeated references to the diplomatic emphasis favored in the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report.

“Given the ability of Iran and the Syrians to influence events within Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively,” he said.

Regula said a successful diplomatic initiative would marginalize extremists and terrorists, and reinforce efforts to reconcile feuding Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

He said there have been indications the administration has intensified its diplomatic efforts.

“I think Condoleezza Rice very quietly is really working the territory,” he said of the secretary of state.

FUNDING ISSUE

Space noted that 15 “young men” from the 18th District, which he represents, are among the more than 3,000 American troops who have lost their lives in the Iraq war.

“I cannot support a troop surge without real answers as to how it will bring success in Iraq,” he added. “I cannot support escalation without regard to diplomacy, without regard to the political realities of the region and without regard to the underlying dynamics of the conflict.”