Stay the course

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This article is part of SourceWatch and Congresspedia coverage of the
Bush administration's war in Iraq
Main article:
  • President George W. Bush will soon announce his "new Iraq strategy" to "send more US troops to Iraq to focus on ways of bringing greater security, rather than training Iraqi forces," the BBC's Justin Webb reported January 2, 2007. The "central theme" of Bush's speech on "increasing troop numbers" will be "sacrifice", although the "exact mission of the extra troops in Iraq is still under discussion," Webb wrote. "The proposal, if it comes, will be highly controversial."
  • At the November 30, 2006, press conference President Bush held in Jordan "following his abbreviated meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Bush made it abundantly clear that he is waving off the rescue attempt by longtime Bush family fixer James A. Baker III. He'd rather stay the course," Dan Froomkin wrote in the Washington Post.
  • "We'll succeed unless we quit," President Bush said November 17, 2006, during his first visit to Viet Nam. [1][2][3]
  • With the November 8, 2006, loss of control of Congress to the Democratic Party, and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, stay the course has become necessary adjustments with the nomination of former CIA Director Robert M. Gates as Rumsfeld's replacement, which showed, Raymond McGovern wrote, "how quickly" President George W. Bush "can adjust to the mid-term election results, when he jettisoned Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, barely a week after telling reporters Rumsfeld was doing a 'fantastic job' and that he wanted him to stay on for the next two years."
  • "The Bush administration is determined to continue 'full speed ahead' with its policy in Iraq, regardless of" the outcome of 2006 midterm elections, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a November 3, 2006, ABC News interview. The administration is "convinced that it is pursuing the right path in Iraq," Cheney said. [4]
  • The White House is "cutting and running from stay the course," Peter Baker wrote in the October 24, 2006, Washington Post. "President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as 'stay the course' ... Where would anyone have gotten that idea?" Baker asked. "Well, maybe from Bush," he wrote.
  • On the October 22, 2006, edition of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, President George W. Bush was asked about James Baker's "plan to develop a strategy for Iraq that is 'between stay the course and cut and run'," to which Bush responded "We’ve never been stay the course, George!" [5][6]
  • "Okay, now they're just making stuff up," Eugene Robinson wrote in the October 24, 2006, Washington Post. "George W. Bush went on television Sunday and claimed that on Iraq war policy, 'We've never been 'stay the course'—as if no record survived of all the times he has used those very words. Maybe he was trying to outdo Dick Cheney, who went on the radio last week and proclaimed that the beleaguered Iraqi government is doing 'remarkably well'. ... If Bush and Cheney were being sincere, then they're lying to themselves; if not, they're lying to the rest of us. My money is on the latter."
  • On July 11, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney "pointed to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah as fresh evidence of the ongoing battle against terrorism that underscores the need to keep President Bush's Republican allies in control of Congress. ... 'This conflict is a long way from over,' Cheney said at a fundraising appearance for a GOP congressional candidate. 'It's going to be a battle that will last for a very long time. It is absolutely essential that we stay the course." [7]
  • To stay the course of the war in Iraq "is not a plan. Not a good one, anyway. I haven't seen the movie for a long time, but it seems to me that 'stay the course' is pretty much what Thelma said to Louise before they drove off the side of the cliff," Jay Bookman of Cox News Service wrote August 7, 2006.

"Surge" or "escalation"?

"'Surge' is what President Bush and his war planners have called a plan – not yet announced but rumored to be favored – to send 20,000 or many more troops to Iraq in the next few months. Sometimes they add the word 'temporary' as a kind of prefix, though this may not be necessary since surges (electrical or tidal or sexual or whatever) always come and go," Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher wrote December 28, 2006.

"There are several problems with this, of course," Mitchell writes." For one thing, who is to say, in advance, that this will actually prove to be a mere 'surge' of troops versus a long-term buildup? What is the time limit for a 'surge' to recede before it seems semi-permanent? A few months, as the White House has suggested? Or a year or more, as some of its outside backers demand, saying anything less would be futile?

"Then there's this: How many troops would indicate a mere 'surge' versus a 'large buildup'? Would 30,000 or less qualify for surge, but 40,000 or more represent a 'large buildup'?", Mitchell asks.

"Two months ago, President Bush termed the sudden rise in U.S. fatalities in Iraq in October only a temporary blip. That month's 2006 record will soon be shattered this month. That's one 'surge' that has already turned into an 'escalation'," Mitchell writes.

"Our goal is victory."

President George W. Bush said "Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: Our goal is victory" in his October 21, 2006, radio address.

The phrase comes from the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, a report by the National Security Council, released by the White House on November 30, 2005. In his December 7, 2005, speech before the Council on Foreign Relations and repeated December 12, 2005, in his speech to the Philadelphia World Affairs Council, Bush said:

"Our goal is victory, and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation."

As original a thought as this may seem, it echoes the words of Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) from December 1999 when he recalled the lessons of Vietnam "before a packed audience at a town-hall meeting at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire": "never again do we send our men and women to fight and die in foreign conflicts unless our goal is victory!" [8]

Baker-Hamilton Commission: "lobbying for change"

"People familiar with the group's option papers expect it to recommend either a scaling back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, making stability rather than democracy the top priority, or, less likely, a slow but steady withdrawal of U.S. forces," Thomas E. Ricks and Peter Baker reported in the October 29, 2006, Washington Post.

"stay the course" proponents

Bush administration

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives


"stay the course" opponents (or at least changing position)

U.S. Senate

"Just to come back to a point that the chairman had mentioned about the costs in Iraq, $400 billion total, 2,579 have been killed, 19,000 wounded; 54 casualties in my own state of Massachusetts; 70 percent of these from IEDs. We’ve been at — in Iraq for 40 months and 13 days. The Korean War, 37 months; World War I 19 months; Persian Gulf War, three months; World War II, 42 months, D-Day; 42 months for VE Day; 45 months for VJ Day. The Civil War was 48 months.
"We’ve been in there now for 40 months and 13 days with the finest military that’s ever been developed in basically rather a third-rate military situation. How much more do we really expect our military can do? How much more can we demand of them when they are out there doing such a proud and noble job of serving our country? How much more can we demand of them? And why isn’t this demand for political accommodation? Why isn’t that the — front and center so that we can bring — start to bring our Americans home with honor?"
  • Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA)
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Democratic Leader
  • Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Sen. John Warner (R-VA): "'The situation,' he said, 'is simply drifting sidewise.' ... While still opposed to a precipitous troop withdrawal, Warner made clear that staying the course is no longer a viable option." [12]

U.S. House of Representatives


Budgetary perspective

A "phased withdrawal [from Iraq] would save $416 billion on the deficit over the next four years and $1.28 trillion over the next decade. On the other hand, a strategy of 'stay the course' will increase the deficit by $313 billion over the next four years and $1.3 trillion over the next decade," according to the Congressional Budget Office, Reuters reported August 17, 2006.

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