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01/17/07 12:00AM By Madeleine M. Kunin
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(HOST) Commentator Madeleine Kunin wasn't surprised to hear that many Americans oppose the President's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. But she was surprised - and encouraged - to learn who some of those opponents are.

(KUNIN) The opposition to the President's recommendation to increase American troops by 21,000 men and women has been overwhelming.

It's been expected that Democrats would oppose the latest change in strategy. Instead of decreasing the number of troops and engaging in diplomacy, the President has asked us to increase our troops, and use military might instead of diplomacy against Iran and Syria.

The Democrats are unified in saying no to the escalation of the war, even though they're divided on how far to go in their opposition.

Opposition to the war was the strongest issue they ran on in 2006, and it's the issue that gave them control of the Congress.

The voices that rose against the war in Iraq sent a strong message across the nation. To get the picture, we need only to look at our neighbor New Hampshire, which went Democratic down the line - the governor, the executive council, the legislature, and both congressional seats. Such a sweep hadn't occurred in more than a hundred years.

Democrats prevailed, yes.

But Republicans may turn the tide on the war in Iraq.

Let me explain.

The power of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq study group was that it was bi-partisan. That's why it was taken seriously by the Congress and by the press.

Even though the President essentially blew off the recommendations, they lingered in the air and changed the conversation, permitting Republicans to speak out.

A Republican like Senator Chuck Hegel of Nebraska has become one of the strongest and most forthright spokesmen against sending more troops to Iraq.

He told Condoleeza Rice at a Senate hearing, "Madame Secretary, Iraqis are killing Iraqis. We are in a civil war. This is sectarian violence out of control.

To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives, to be put in the middle of a civil war, is wrong. Morally wrong. Tactically and strategically wrong."

He concluded: "I think this speech given last night by the President represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Every politician - Democrat and Republican - running for re-election in 2008 will have to take a stand on Iraq, whether they are running for Congress or for President.

Only when the President's own party opposes him will we get a true change in strategy.

The President can risk the loss of Democratic support, but he cannot for much longer risk the loss of support from his own party.

Only when we have broad bipartisan opposition to the President's plan will we extricate ourselves from this tragic, misguided war.

Chuck Hagel is in the vanguard.

But he is not alone.

The majority of Americans agree with him.

The question is, how long will it take for the President to listen?

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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