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A 'Clear Plan for Victory' in Iraq

President Bush described an American military force on the offensive in Iraq with a "clear plan for victory." But he avoided specifics in favor of broad themes that included building an inclusive government, forging ahead with reconstruction and striking at insurgents. The president characteristically declined to offer a timetable for an American troop withdrawal, which he has argued would aid the insurgency, but noted that as Iraqi security forces increasingly take the lead, "we should be able to further decrease our troop levels." Those decisions, he said, would be made by military commanders rather than policymakers in Washington.

Mr. Bush drew applause when he singled out the family of Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay, who was killed last month fighting in Fallujah. As Clay's family looked on, the president quoted a letter in which Clay wrote, "I know what honor is. It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to."

The passage served to highlight one aspect of the war that is working relatively well for the Bush administration. Although one recent report commissioned by the Pentagon said the Army was stretched into a "thin green line," the military by-and-large supports the war. And while the Army failed to meet its recruiting goals last year, those numbers have improved, allowing Bush to avoid the most dire predictions of war critics who feared a draft.

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John Hendren
John Hendren began covering the Pentagon for NPR in November 2005. His reports can be heard throughout NPR News programming and newscasts.