By Lou Dobbs
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Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- While American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting some of the most intense battles of the war against radical Islamic terrorists, our national debate on the future of the conflict has descended to platitudes of campaign rhetoric and a pathological, partisan refusal on both sides of that debate to acknowledge the harsh realities and difficult choices that confront us.
Five years after the September 11 attacks, President Bush told the nation in his televised address, "If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons." Whether right or wrong, President Bush did not tell us how we will defeat these unspecified and unnamed enemies, nor when.
In response to the president's address, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "The American people deserved better last night. They deserved a chance to reclaim that sense of unity, purpose and patriotism that swept through our country five years ago."
But like President Bush, Sen. Reid had no recommendations for defeating our enemies in this conflict. Sen. Reid is right that the American people deserve better. They deserve better from both political parties and our national leadership.
Nearly 140,000 of our troops are in combat to eradicate a steadfast insurgency in Iraq, while 20,000 of our brave men and women fight to defeat the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. Nearly 2,700 of our troops have been killed in Iraq and almost 300 of our troops have been killed in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban is strengthening every day and adopting the Iraqi insurgency's tactics. The Taliban has begun using suicide bombs, roadside bombs and other tactics seldom seen in Afghanistan. Suicide bombings, for example, were once very rare in Afghanistan, but so far this year there have been some 70 suicide attacks, and NATO says today those attacks have killed more than 170 people. The commander of British forces in Afghanistan says that the intensity of the fighting there is greater than that in Iraq.
In Iraq, the insurgency is intensifying: violence is worsening, not lessening. And on average, two of our troops are killed each and every day.
Last week, the Senate voted unanimously to spend $63 billion more to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. That brings the total amount appropriated to conduct both wars to more than $469 billion. That's more than twice the Bush administration's original estimate of $100 - $200 billion for the war in Iraq, but far less than the estimate from Nobel Laureate economist and Columbia professor Joseph Stiglitz. Along with Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, Stiglitz projects the war in Iraq will cost more than $1 trillion.
Neither the Bush administration nor the loyal Democratic opposition is speaking to the American people about how these wars will be won and at what cost. After almost five years in Afghanistan and more than three years in Iraq, I believe the American people, and certainly our men and women in uniform, deserve more than partisan rancor and false choices.
The American people cannot be reasonably asked by this president or this secretary of defense to "stay the course" without evidence of a strategy to successfully prosecute the war and defeat the radical Islamist enemy. Otherwise, why are we there? The loyal opposition on Capitol Hill cannot reasonably ask the American people to elect them without articulating a clear new direction and offering a concrete plan for victory. Otherwise, why do we even have a loyal opposition?
Both the White House and Congress should be demanding accountability from our generals who have failed so far to succeed in destroying our enemies. Not a single general has been fired for failing to lead our men and women to victory against the insurgencies of Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe it is time for all Americans -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents -- to demand such accountability.
I, for one, do not want to hear another of our generals urge the American people to be patient. Patience favors the enemy. And our generals have the responsibility to our brave troops and this nation to deliver certain victory, and that responsibility rests first and foremost with the commander in chief.
Lou Dobbs says President Bush needs to say how and when the U.S. will defeat its enemies in the Mideast.
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