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OUR VIEW: If we’re not winning or losing, what are we doing?

What a difference a month makes. After voters rebuffed President Bush over Iraq in the midterm elections by handing control of Congress over to Democrats, the Commander-In-Chief is once again sending ambiguous signals about the war.

The new &8220;spin&8221; about Iraq is, &8220;We’re not winning; we’re not losing.&8221; Such a response about our nation’s progress on foreign soil begs the question, &8220;Then exactly what are we doing?&8221;

This is not a football game where we can be tied late in the fourth quarter. This is a war where American lives are being lost. If we are not winning, then by the very nature of war we are losing.

Of course, just because we are losing at this point in the war does not mean we should pack it in and come home. It means we need to evaluate where we are and whether or not victory is achievable. If so, we fight. If not, we begin an orderly withdrawal.

New Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is doing just that with his tour of Iraq, but already the Bush administration’s policy agenda on Iraq is running counter to the wishes expressed by generals leading the fight in the region.

President Bush says he wants to send more troops, but generals told Gates this week that doing so would prolong the development of Iraqi security forces. How can Bush be so completely off-kilter with his generals?

The president needs to cease all politics at this point and give Gates the opportunity to do a full evaluation. It’s time our military leaders were afforded the chance to lead.