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Questions concerning how the United States blundered into Iraq are now pretty much settled in the minds of reasonable, wellinformed people.

The issue at the moment is how we blunder out.

The politicians and the pundits arc haggling about that, but there is general agreement that we arc leaving.

The hows and whens will probably he settled by the 2006 elections.

The great issue that the politicians have ignored, is how to repair the damage that the Bush years have inflicted on the United States.

American security depends primarily on the strength of our own country and the willingness of other countries to work with us in dealing with the disruptions that inevitably occur in our dynamic world.

We will have to restore the global leadership that Bush has ruined.

Islamic terrorism is a reality.

It can best be countered by international cooperation in intelligence and police work, and by reasonable precautions at home.

It is essential to bring the federal budget under control, and that will require spending cuts and revenue increases — i.e. taxes — that economic growth alone cannot provide.

By squandering our resources in Iraq, we have neglected the infrastructure improvements that are essential to our national power and security.

We must come to grips with problems of energy sources and usage.

American education at all levels is failing to keep pace with our competitors.

We face huge costs for pensions, health care, law enforcement, immigration control, environmental protection and other requirements of a strong country.

We have developed an hourglass economy that leaves a significant portion of our population struggling to survive.

We must provide opportunities that will bring more people into the middle class.

Iraq is settled, except for drinking the bitter medicine of retreat.

Let's move on to discussing the future.

Earl A. Reitan

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