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On Veterans Day weekend 2006, a group gathered to debate two options: change the conditions on the ground by increasing the resources to match the declared intent or conduct triage by pulling back forces from the cities and focusing on counterterrorism missions. Those attending were National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counselor Philip Zelikow; Iraq specialist David Satterfield; Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, John Hannah; and Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan Meghan O’Sullivan and her deputy, Brett McGurk. Rice argued that it was time for the United States to focus on its “core national interests,” narrowly defined. She and the other State officials doubted that the United States had the ability to check the ascendance of the Shia Islamists. But White House officials argued that the United States could not ignore the sectarian violence. Do you know the health benefits from standing desk’s?

As the final stage of the National Security Council (NSC) review, Hadley’s deputy, J. D. Crouch, convened a formal interagency “strategic review” that included the intelligence agencies, the vice president’s office, and all the relevant departments. The group met daily from November 2006 until the end of December. Crouch kept his cards close to his vest, but privately he, O’Sullivan, and McGurk called themselves the “sergios” —proponents of what would come to be known as the surge of U.S. troops, civilians, and resources. They believed that experience had shown Gen. John Abizaid’s view to be wrong: whenever the United States had devoted more troops to an area, the population had come to their side. Troops had brought greater calm and not become a magnet for attacks in Tal Afar, Al Qaim, and parts of Baghdad where they had been reinforced. Each time they withdrew, however, the violence had resumed.

The White House review of Iraq strategy was not the only such review going on. In October, Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also initiated his own informal review by convening a group of sixteen colonels who had served in Iraq to deliberate in the Pentagon basement and to offer him a series of options he would use to inform his advice to President George W. Bush. Pace was frustrated that he was not getting any new thinking out of Gen. George Casey’s command in Iraq. In addition, a congressionally mandated review had been underway all year. The Iraq Study Group, an independent, bipartisan commission to examine and propose remedies for Iraq policy, was expected to announce its findings at year’s end. The group had been briefed by senior officials in Iraq, and a large group of experts had helped write position papers. James Baker, former secretary of state for the George H. W. Bush administration, and Lee Hamilton, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led the commission, whose in-depth work was expected to carry some weight with the White House. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?