A point of clarification regarding A.B.'s post that described me as "anti-war.” I would not describe myself as anti-war, I would describe myself as anti-mistaken wars, and also against unwise engagements that neoconservatives often promote over the objection of sound military judgment from many military leaders.

I have no problem with A.B.'s post. We disagree about Gates, and that is perfectly fine, but, because it is an important issue, I want to make my position clear.

I am a Sam Nunn Democrat on defense with a long history of working closely with various military and intelligence people over many years. I opposed going to war in Iraq from the beginning, as many commanders in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army did when they advised against it.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, I contacted Marine Corps intelligence and offered to help in any way, including, if necessary, going to Afghanistan to help kill Osama bin Laden. This was within a month of Sept. 11, and that was when I first heard that an invasion of Iraq, not an all-out attempt to kill bin Laden, was going to be the Bush response.

I was disgusted and appalled.

I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, strongly, aggressively and at high levels in both parties. Obviously, my advice was not followed. Most Democrats at the time would not give me the time of day, any more than Republicans, in the rush to war.

The problem with the Iraq invasion then — and it remains the problem today — is that once we removed Saddam, there were only two feasible outcomes. The first would have been a major increase in Iranian influence in Iraq, coupled with the fragmentation within Iraq that has lasted for many centuries. The second would require an enormous and lasting American presence in Iraq at great cost and peril, in American lives and American treasure.

It was clear then, it is clear now, that one of these outcomes or both would be the result of the U.S. invasion. Besides many in the Army and Marine Corps, there were many in the intelligence community who agreed with this analysis. Their views were ignored; their views were systematically misrepresented to the public and withheld from the Congress, not only about the WMD issue but about the dangers that they, many military leaders and I warned about with the invasion itself.

Many of the believers in the so-called surge are not as confident as they appear. That is why they do not support significant U.S. military repositioning (as I do) out of Iraq and into Afghanistan. They talk about how they believe the surge worked but their true views are belied by the fact that they do not believe it worked enough to withdraw any sizable number of U.S. troops anytime soon.

If we do not withdraw troops from Iraq we will not be able to reinforce our troops in Afghanistan, where the dangers are real, immediate and greater than widely understood.

Here is my view about what to do now:

First, we should withdraw perhaps 15,000 troops, in increments of about 3,000, in the early stage of the Obama administration. There are risks of resurgent factional violence and dangerous Iranian influence. A phased withdrawal of this kind would lower our presence materially and soon allow us to evaluate events on the ground, and hopefully continue withdrawals.

Second, we need substantially increased economic aid and troop strength in Afghanistan, and we need it soon. We need an aggressive military attack on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where terrorists stalk and we need an aggressive attack on poppy producers. This must be accompanied by reforms that win popular support, economic aid to make life better and crop replacement programs for poppy producers.

Finally, there is a significant problem with Iranian influence in Shiite sections of Iraq.

The best-case solution would be a significant diplomatic effort between the U.S. and Iran, and regional diplomacy, to deal with the nuclear issues and the Iraq-Iran issues.

This will not be easy, but must be explored at the ministerial level early in the Obama administration.

My problem with Gates and Clinton is that historically both have been hostile to the combination of policies I believe are needed. Both have taken long-term positions based not on a coherent analysis, and not with clarity of strategy or military tactics, but based, instead, on political maneuverings.

I have enormous confidence in Gen. Jones.

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Whoever holds these positions, I wish them well and again, will do my modest part to help the policy succeed.

And again, I have no problem with A.B.'s post. Disagreement is good. I did want to make my overall position, which I have held since 2001, very clear.

I am not "anti-war.” I am against unwise, reckless and disastrous wars that should be avoided. I support wars that would stabilize Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden.

This is not only my view, it represents the private views of some of the smartest leaders in the Army, Marine Corps and intelligence communities who are not free to speak their views publicly. Not all agree with me; but many do.