It's not an if, it's a when.
Pentagon officials have indicated that they plan to send as many as 15,000 more troops to Iraq during the first four months of 2005, and President Bush continues to insist that ''we will stay the course'' until Iraq is stabilized.
Where will the additional troops come from? The Bush administration insists that there will be no draft, but the ''backdoor draft'' that has kept so many from the Reserve and National Guard on active duty has backfired, as quotas for new enlistments have not been met. So plans are already advanced for fully mobilizing the Reserve and National Guard.
But how many troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq? The well-respected International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, before which the president spoke last November, says 500,000. Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress publicly before the war that ''several hundred thousand'' troops would be needed. It turns out that he was asking for 400,000, fully aware that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was planning to attack and occupy Iraq with just a fraction of that. Rumsfeld gave him the back of his hand.
At this point, to be unaware of the requirement for additional troops while watching the burgeoning chaos in Iraq, requires a Ph.D. in denial. Indeed, cracks can be seen within the president's own camp regarding what is happening in Iraq.
While the president promotes the bromide of ''months of steady progress'' in Iraq, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., calls this a ''grand illusion.'' Last month, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave tacit, but unambiguous support to the gloomy conclusions reached in the recent National Intelligence Estimate.
President Bush says that he will provide more troops if commanders ask for them. But it would mean early retirement for any general making such a request before the election.
As for the resistance to U.S. occupation, disingenuousness persists. The president has assured us that there are only ''a handful of people who are willing to kill'' to thwart U.S. aims.
And those interested in learning more about these people are malnourished by ''intelligence'' and forced instead to resort to Iraqi newspaper listings of the various groups who have claimed credit for hitting the invader.
Lack of intelligence
The reality in Iraq was far better captured by retired Army Special Forces Col. W. Patrick Lang, former Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. In an informal e-mail, Lang wrote: ``The sad thing is that U.S. combat intelligence in Iraq does not seem to know who the insurgents are, where they are, how many they are or what they plan to do.''
A widely respected military strategist and educator, retired Army Col. Sam Gardiner, writing recently for salon.com, reacted bitterly to reports -- now confirmed by Secretary Powell -- that military operations into the ''no-go'' areas in Iraq have been postponed until after the election.
'There is certainly no commander in the field saying, `Let's give the bad guys another 60 days to operate freely inside their sanctuaries before we attack.' Such a decision would be particularly bizarre when attacks against coalition forces are more frequent than ever, attacks on oil pipelines are on the rise, and the U.S. is suffering increased casualties.''
Bush insists that, ''You can understand how hard it is and still believe we'll succeed.'' No you can't -- not if you really understand how hard it is and are honest about what would be required.
It is high time that the administration explained how it is going to ''win'' this war with a troop force widely recognized as inadequate to the task.
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
© Knight Ridder