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In November 2005, the White House released a 35-page plan titled the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” Touted by President Bush in a series of major speeches in the weeks afterward, the document laid out his plan for winning the war in Iraq.

Now, just over a year later, President Bush has taken to the airwaves with a decidedly different plan, one based on his judgment Wednesday night that, “It is clear we need to change our strategy in Iraq.”

The biggest change is that the 2005 strategy suggested troop levels would be reduced in 2006. The opposite, an increase of 21,500 troops over the coming months, is the centerpiece of the new Bush strategy.

“We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience,” the 2005 National Strategy read. “While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize.”

In Bush’s speech Wednesday, he acknowledged that more troops were needed to back up that promise.

“We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops,” he said. “But in 2006, the opposite happened.”

According to the November 2005 plan, the U.S. military was to focus primarily on training Iraqi forces; under the new plan, the primary mission of American troops in Baghdad will be to protect Iraqis against sectarian violence and insurgent attacks.

In addition, the new plan puts more of an onus on the Iraqi government.

“If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people,” Bush said Wednesday. “Now is the time to act.”

Some of the messages have not changed — the central “clear, hold, build” military strategy now will be tried in Baghdad, with more troops than before. And, both the 2005 plan and Bush’s speech make clear that the administration views Iraq as the “central front in the global war on terror” and a fight that must be won.

But the wording and tone were vastly different. In Bush’s Wednesday night speech, he used the word “victory” only twice in 20 minutes.

“Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved,” Bush said. “There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world — a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties and answers to its people.”

By contrast, the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” includes the word “victory” 34 times in addition to its prominent place in the title.

Bush seemed to tamp down those expectations Wednesday night, saying that more tough times were ahead.

“Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue, and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties,” Bush said. “The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.”


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